Al-Qaeda attacks Yemen presidential palace

At least four presidential guards have been killed and others are reportedly held hostage

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At least four Yemeni presidential guards were killed on Friday during a gun fight with militants who tried to storm the presidential palace in Sanaa, Al Arabiya correspondent in Sanaa reported Friday.

Heavy gunfire was heard in the area surrounding the presidential palace, and witnesses said the clashes were ongoing, Al Arabiya correspondent Hamoud Mansour said.

Meanwhile, an explosion was heard near a government building housing political security staff in the capital Sanaa, Reuters reported.
The violence in the capital flared just hours after the government announced the killing of a foreign militant and the capture of two others in the southern province of Shabwa.

The militant was who was killed was of Saudi citizen and those who were captured held French citizenships and were identified as Mourad Abdulla Abad and Taha al-Issawi.

The two French men were arrested while trying to leave through one of the country's airports, a source told AFP.

Mohsin Khadrouf, a Yemeni military expert, said the attack on the presidential palace was a response to the government’s military campaign against the terrorist group in the south.

Khadrouf said al-Qaeda militants still possessed the capability to move freely in different parts of Yemen, including within the capital Sanaa.

Al-Qaeda militants earlier ambushed the defense minister's motorcade as it was returning from a visit to strategic areas and a sprawling al-Qaeda base recaptured by the army, the Associated Press reported.

Army and security troops were engaged Friday in fierce clashes with militants atop of a hill overlooking the main road in the southern region of Mahfad.

The officials said the assailants fled, leaving three killed and two wounded who were captured by government troops, who sustained three wounded.

Yemeni forces attacks were reportedly backed by U.S. drone strikes targeting a major al-Qaeda base hidden in the remote mountains of Mahfad.

Earlier this week, Yemeni government forces captured al-Qaeda’s main stronghold in the south of the country after insurgents blew up the local government compound there and fled.

The army had intensified an offensive to root out foreign and local Islamist fighters holed up in some of the country’s most impenetrable areas.

Yemen's state news agency Saba had quoted a military source as saying that most of the militants killed in Sunday's fighting were Saudis, Afghans, Somalis and Chechens, as well as other nationalities.

[With AP and Reuters]

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