Death toll at 177 in Yemen `slaughter`
Baku, March 7 (AZERTAC). The death toll from a sophisticated attack by Islamic extremists against soldiers in Yemen jumped to 177 Tuesday, three Yemeni security officials told CNN.
Air raids on militant positions since the attack have left at least 42 militants dead in Abyan province, security officials said.
The attack Sunday at an army base by Ansar al-Sharia, which is allied with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), originally claimed the lives of 90 soldiers and wounded many others.
It “illustrates AQAP`s complete disregard for human life,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement.
She vowed that the United States will continue to support Yemen`s new President Abdurabu Hadi “and the Yemeni people as they work to realize their aspirations for a brighter and more prosperous future.”
The attack was a humiliating defeat to Yemen`s army in a power struggle against AQAP.
The militants seized large amounts of weaponry — including rocket launchers, mortars, armored vehicles, and tanks — and appeared to have had help from within the security apparatus, according to Yemeni officials.
The bloodbath took place near Zinjibar, a town on the Arabian Sea where Ansar al-Sharia has been active for nearly a year.
One Yemeni official, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said militants began attacking an army base from the east, drawing the fire of troops, and then began attacking from the other side of the base. The “reinforcement response was too slow,” he said, adding that was partly because of sandstorms in the area.
Al Qaeda-linked militants occupied a Republican Guard garrison in the province of Baitha, before the Yemeni army overtook it, a Yemeni government official said.
Meanwhile, U.S. trainers are helping the Yemeni government in its effort to retake al-Kowd, the town in Abyan closest to the military base where Sunday`s attack occurred, two Yemeni security officials told CNN.
Air attacks went on through the night Monday and into Tuesday morning in an effort to kill militants and destroy their tanks and vehicles, the officials said.
Hundreds of troops were deployed to Abyan and nearly 1,000 more will reach the province by Tuesday night, the Interior Ministry said.
At least 146 troops have been wounded since Saturday, security officials said.
Experts warn that al-Qaeda is planning to conduct powerful attacks in six Yemeni provinces.
Abdul Salam Mohammed, director of the Sanaa-based Abaad Strategic Center, told CNN that pamphlets belonging to al Qaeda were distributed to residents informing them of the attacks to come.