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IS claims Yemen barracks attacks; army blames al-Qaeda

Islamic State says 50 Yemeni soldiers were killed in attacks for which it claims responsibility on army positions in Hadramawt province
Supporters of Houthis gather at Babul Yemen street to protest against the US's $1.29bn sale of smart bombs to Saudi Arabia, in Sanaa, Yemen on 20 November, 2015 (AA)

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for attacks on the army in southeast Yemen on Friday, after the military had blamed al-Qaeda for the assaults that cost dozens of lives.

IS said in a statement, quoted by the SITE monitoring group, that 50 Yemeni troops were killed in multi-pronged attacks including a suicide bombing and clashes in Hadramawt province.

The Yemeni army earlier said al-Qaeda had launched the attacks on army positions near the town of Shibam, north of the provincial capital, Mukalla, and that 12 soldiers and 19 IS fighters were killed.

Yemeni forces claimed that men wearing masks attacked forces sympathetic to the government and detonated a suicide car bomb near a checkpoint on Friday morning.

After the initial suicide blast, gunfire lasted for hours.

Hadramawt province is a stronghold of al-Qaeda, whose members have controlled Mukalla since April, imposing a strict version of sharia Islamic law in areas of Yemen under its control.

The group has executed or lashed those it has accused of "crimes" including homosexuality and sorcery. Those accused of theft have their hands cut off.

The IS group is also present in Yemen, feeding on chaos in the country where a Saudi-led Arab coalition has been battling Shia Houthi militia opposed to the government.

Both al-Qaeda and IS are visibly present in Yemen's second city of  Aden, where the Saudi-backed government has set up a temporary headquarters after the Houthis took over the capital Sanaa.

On 6 October, the temporary headquarters came under attack in a series of bombings that lightly wounded several ministers and killed 15 people. 

IS claimed responsibility for the bombings, which also hit military installations used by coalition troops.

In its latest claim, IS said its operation on Friday targeted "three barracks of the apostate Yemeni army" on a road near Shibam in Hadramawt, SITE reported.