AQAP guns down 20 Yemeni soldiers in the east

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula launched a deadly attack earlier today that killed 20 Yemeni soldiers in an eastern province that has become a major battleground over the past several years. From AFP:

The assailants drove up to the checkpoint in a convoy of vehicles, raking the soldiers on duty with automatic weapons before hurling grenades at an adjacent tent where the majority of the contingent were asleep, a military source told AFP.

The attack “bore all the hallmarks of al Qaeda,” the source added.

SABA, the state-run Yemen News Agency, confirmed the attack and said that 20 soldiers were killed and one more was wounded.

Hadramout is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, and the province has become an AQAP bastion over the past several years. AQAP has regrouped in Hadramout and other provinces after losing control of major cities in Abyan and Shabwa provinces to government forces starting in late spring 2012. In May 2013, the Yemeni government claimed it foiled a plot by AQAP to establish an Islamic emirate in the Ghayl Bawazir area.

AQAP has launched a series of assassinations and complex attacks against Yemeni security forces in the province. In September 2013, a platoon-sized AQAP assault team stormed a base run by the Interior Ministry’s paramilitary Central Security Organization in the city of Mukallah, the capital of Hadramout province. Several soldiers were killed and the base was held by AQAP for days before it was retaken by commandos.

The US has recently launched a series of drone strikes in Hadramout. Between November 19, 2013 and January 15 of this year, five of the six drone strikes took place in the eastern province.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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