Gunmen kill two security officers in Yemen

Published:

Two senior Yemeni security officers were killed in separate attacks in the capital Sanaa on Tuesday by gunmen, an Al Arabiya correspondent reported.

Intelligence officer General Fadl al-Zamani of the national security agency was shot in Bab al-Yaman, the main gate to the old city of Sanaa, and Colonel Salim al-Gharbani, a member of the elite Republican Guard, were shot in the capital’s Dar Salm district .

Gharbani was rushed to the hospital where he succumbed to his wounds, the official said.

The assailants who managed to escape have not yet been identified but such attacks, which are becoming increasingly frequent recently, have in the past been carried out by al-Qaeda militants, according to official sources.

Meanwhile, the latest shooting in the Yemeni capital coincided with another army offensive launched today against tribesmen suspected of repeatedly sabotaging an oil pipeline in east Yemen, sparking clashes which left 17 people dead, tribal sources said.

The dead included 10 tribesmen and seven soldiers, said the sources, who added that the army offensive in Marib province’s Habab valley, 140 kilometers (87 miles) east of the capital Sanaa, was launched in the early hours of the morning and was backed by air raids.

The sources said the army was “randomly shelling” the area where some Qaeda militants joined tribesmen ranks in battling Yemeni troops.

Yemen has been undergoing a bumpy transition period marred by violence since former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to quit earlier this year.

Last week, Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi announced the restructuring of the army and the defense ministry, purging them of Saleh’s relatives and cronies.

Attacks on oil and gas pipelines by Qaeda militants or by tribesmen seeking to extract concessions from the central government are common in Yemen.

A tribal source told AFP that the offensive was targeting prominent figure Salah bin Hussein al-Dammaj, who has allegedly blown up the pipeline several times to pressure the authorities to pay him 100 million riyals ($480,000) in compensation for land he claims was taken from him in Sanaa.

The 320-kilometre (200-mile) pipeline carries oil from Safer oilfields in Marib to an export terminal on the Red Sea. It carries around 180,000 barrels per day.

In July, Petroleum and Minerals Minister Hisham Abdullah said the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country had lost more than $4 billion (3.1 billion euros) in revenues since February 2011 due to the attacks.

Yemen produces about 300,000 barrels of oil a day, most of which is destined for export.

Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) took advantage of the weakness of Yemen’s central government during an uprising last year against now ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, seizing large swathes of territory across the south.

But after a month-long offensive launched in May by Yemeni troops, most militants fled to the more lawless desert regions of the east.

Tribes in Yemen as well as AQAP militants often resort to violence and abducting foreigners to force the government to respond to their demands.

On Friday, two Finns and an Austrian were kidnapped in Sanaa, suspectedly by Qaeda-linked gunmen.

State news agency Saba reported Tuesday that “security services are still carrying out vast search operations to hunt down the abductors and the place where the hostages are held to secure their safe release as soon as possible.”

Elsewhere on Tuesday, gunmen on motorbikes shot dead two senior Yemeni security officers in separate attacks in Sanaa, officials said. Such attacks have in the past been carried out by Qaeda militants.