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Top south Yemen officials survive Aden convoy attack

Fierce fighting has rocked Aden in recent days as authorities have tried to root out al-Qaeda and other militant groups from the city
Pro-government fighters stand next to a vehicle destroyed in the 5 January attack (AFP)

Three senior south Yemeni officials have survived a rocket attack on their convoy which killed one guard and injured eight others in the southern city of Aden.

The blast happened in the Inmaa district of the city on Tuesday.

"Gunmen gathered in a courtyard fired an RPG on the convoy of the governor of Lahj province, Nasser al-Habaji, the governor of Aden, Aidaroos al-Zubairi, and Aden security director Brigadier General Shalal Ali Shayyeh as it travelled in the Inma district," a government official told Reuters news agency.

"They survived the attack and armed clashes followed," the official added.

According to the AFP news agency, the men were returning from a visit to a camp of Emirati troops who are taking part in the Saudi-led coalition war against the Houthi rebels and their allies.

The attack comes after Yemeni security forces arrested a local al-Qaeda leader in Aden and imposed a curfew after fierce fighting between the two sides killed at least 22 people on Monday.

An MEE journalist in southern Yemen, Saeed al-Batati, said that the attack would most likely be claimed by either AQAP or IS within the next 24 hours, in an attempt to show that they can still cause havoc in the city.

The relationship between anti-Houthi forces and AQAP is complex. Both oppose the Houthis but are not officially allied in their fight against them.

The government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi says that it does not cooperate with AQAP although reports have surfaced suggesting that pro-Hadi forces as well as other resistance fighters and Saudi-coalition forces have fought alongside AQAP or have at the very least tolerated their presence, at least until recently.  

“Now these groups which were allied with each other have begun aiming their weapons at each other,” Batati said.

“The coalition and south Yemen separatists are working together to fight al-Qaeda and IS which have a toehold in the city. The radical groups [in turn] are responding with attacks on government facilities and [also] assassinated Aden governor last month.”

Jaafar Saad was killed in an Aden bombing claimed by the Islamic State group. His replacement Brigadier General Shalal Ali Shayyeh vowed he would "cleanse" Aden of "terrorists".

Ludovico Carlino, a senior analyst at IHS Country Risk, told the Wall Street Journal on Monday that AQAP has been boosted by the war in southern Yemen.

“AQAP’s capability to gradually expand its geographical reach highlights two things: how the jihadist group continues to be the main beneficiary of the current Yemeni civil war, and how the absence of an effective military force capable to challenge them is granting AQAP an almost complete freedom of manoeuvre across much of southern Yemen," he said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Tuesday said that the civilian casualty count since March last year now stood at 2,795 killed and 5,324 wounded, with more than twice the number of civilians reported killed in December compared to November despite the introduction of a brief ceasefire.  

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