Sana’a: Yemen’s army backed by local armed tribesmen repelled Monday morning a surprise attack by Al Qaida militants in the southern restive province of Abyan, local sources told Gulf News.

At least 25 people, 15 militants, 7 soldiers and two tribesmen died in the clashes that erupted when the militants assaulted a military position guarding the town of Lawader in attempt to annex it to their self-declared Islamic state.

The government run-Saba news agency said on Monday that the army killed 15 militants in clashes.

This time many pro-government tribes joined the army in their fighting against the militants as they feared that their city could fall to the extremist group.

Lawader is one of 11 towns in the province of Abyan not yet under Al Qaida control.

However, three towns Al Mahfed, Khanfer and Zinjibar are. Al Qaida’s offshoot in Yemen, known as Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has exploited the political turmoil in the country and seized control of some towns in Abyan and Shawba.

On Sunday, the ministry of defence said that security forces killed at least 16 militants in Al Kawd district, near the militants’ stronghold in Abyan.

On Sunday afternoon, suspected Al Qaida gunmen shot dead an intelligence officer in the southern province of Taiz. The two gunmen, who were riding a motorbike, rammed the car of the Esmael Baalawi and opened fire on him, the ministry of defense said.

Local media sources said that Al Qaida claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming that the dead officer served as a head of a prison in the city was in charge of torturing prisoners.

Meanwhile an army soldier was gunned down on Monday as he was inside a car carrying food supplies to a checkpoint in the city. The driver of the car was also injured in the attack when lost control of the car and hit a light pole.

The militants have tried many times to expand their territories in the south by attacking new cities in the troubled country.

Since early this year, militants have launched many deadly attacks on army outposts in the south, killing hundreds of soldiers and seizing heavy weapons.

In March, more than 200 Yemeni soldiers were killed in clashes with suspected Al Qaida gunmen when the militants attacked military positions in Abyan.

The attack was the deadliest single attack on Yemeni soldiers since the beginning of the fighting with Al Qaida in Abyan in May of last year. Also on March 31, at least 17 soldiers and 12 militants were killed when the rebels occupied an army post in the town of Mallah in the Lahij province. 
Saleh’s son backs new president
Meanwhile, Ahmad Ali Abdullah, the son of former Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh said on Sunday night that his forces back the new president, days after his dismissed uncle shut down Sana’a airport as an act of protest against the decision to remove him.

Ahmad, who is the commander of the country’s elite Republican Guard, is the most influential of the remaining relatives of the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

On Friday night, the country’s new president Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi issued many decrees, sacking some of the former leader’s relatives and army loyalists.

Many local observers say Ahmad’s statement is a message of reassurance that he will not rebel against any governmental decisions.