A top Yemen army commander was killed on Monday morning in the port city of Aden when a suicide bomber blew himself up near his car, the ministry of defence said.
Maj. General Salem Ali Qatan, the commander of the army’s Southern Region, was killed when a Somali man, in his 20s, threw his explosive-laden body into car. The general was critically injured and died on his way to hospital. Two of his associates were also killed in the attack that the government instantly blamed on Al Qaida in Yemen. Local sources said that the man, wearing explosive belt, was standing near a speed bump in Al Mansoura district in Aden. When Qatan’s car slowed down, he approached the car and detonated himself. The explosion tore the attacker and left Qatan bleeding heavily, witnesses said.
Qatan is described as the driving force behind the successful army offensive that wiped out Al Qaida from the southern Yemen. General Qatan was appointed in March as commander of the country’s most important division of the army following major military reshuffle by the Yemen president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Qatan replaced general Mahdi Magwala, one of the staunch supporters of the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh .
Local media sources said that Anwar Al Sharia, Al Qaida branch in Yemen, claimed resposibility for the attack and threatened to carry out more attacks.
An army officer from Brigade 119, who is a friend of Qatan, told Gulf News that the death of general Qatan is a big blow to the military. The officer said the general’s death had no effect on their battle against Al Qaida. “We have lost a veteran army commander who was killed by criminal gangs.”
Separately, the governor of Shabwa Ali Hassan Al Ahmadi narrowly escaped death on Monday when armed men set an ambush for his convoy in an area called Al Nagaba in Al Said district, Shabwa, local source told Gulf News. The governor was on his way to inspect the town of Azzan, Al Qaida’s former stronghold in Shawba. Two of the governor’s associates were killed in the ambush.
Local people from Azzan town told Gulf News that Al Qaida militants have left the town.
“Al Qaida asked a committee from local residents to oversee the town when they leave. On Sunday night, they left Azzan,” one resident said.
On Monday, army units have withdrawn from the city of Zinjibar in the restive province of Abyan and were deployed on the outskirts of the city for the first time since the army recaptured Al Qaida’s main stronghold on June 12 .
“We have a plan of removing army troops from the cities that we regained from Al Qaida,” he said on condition of anonymity.
Last week, Al Qaida militants withdrew from three strongholds in Abyan, including the capital Zinjibar and the towns of Jaar and Shuqra and the town of Azzan in the province of Shabwa.