Al Qaeda weapons ship docks in Aden

According to a local Yemeni newspaper, on April 11 al Qaeda militants sailed a ship loaded with weapons into the country’s southern port in Aden. Clashes erupted between the militants and security personel from the Yemeni anti-smuggling unit when the ship docked in Aden and the militants began offloading the weapons. The militants violently engaged the security personnel and then managed to escape by reboarding the ship and setting sail.

Boats belonging to the Yemeni coast guard and navy attempted to follow the ship but apparently lost its trail. According to sources, two militants were killed by Yemeni security forces; it is unclear whether they were killed in the initial clashes at the port of Aden or during the maritime chase.

Two days earlier, on April 9, the Yemeni Interior Ministry had warned in a memo to security services in the coastal provinces that a ship belong to al Qaeda thought to be carrying weapons had departed Djibouti the night before. At the time it was believed that the ship was headed to one of Yemen’s ports and was manned by militants hailing from Yemen’s eastern Hadramout province.

In related news, on April 12 one Yemeni soldier was killed and another injured when militants attacked a vehicle carrying military salaries in the city of Tarim in central Hadramout. After what eyewitnesses described as an ambush by al Qaeda militants, fighting broke out between the soldiers in the car and the attackers.

During the Arab Spring protests against the rule of former president Ali Abdallah Saleh in 2011-2012, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) took advantage of turmoil in the country to seize control of vast areas in Yemen’s south, including Hadramout. Although the Yemeni military launched a successful counteroffensive to recapture territory back from the terrorist organization in mid-2012, AQAP’s networks and militants have not been completely cleared from those areas and are known to operate in Hadramout and other southern provinces.

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