Islamic militants have staged a deadly attack at a checkpoint near the presidential palace in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a. The incident followed an assassination attempt against Yemen's defense minister in Shabwa province earlier in the day. The Yemeni army has reportedly made gains against al-Qaida militants in Shabwa and Abyan provinces.
Yemeni state television reports that al-Qaida militants traded gunfire with government troops at the checkpoint Friday afternoon, killing three soldiers. Several militants reportedly were killed as well.
Al-Jazeera TV reports a military convoy was the target and that government forces closed all roads in the vicinity after the shootout.
Earlier Friday, militants attacked a convoy carrying Yemeni Defense Minister Mohammed Nasr Ahmed and several top security officers as they returned from a visit to troops in the south of the country. The minister and his aides reportedly were not hurt.
Yemeni intelligence chief Ali Mohammadi, who was traveling with the defense minister, told journalists before the attack that the army has captured territory in recent operations against al-Qaida militants, due to the cooperation of local residents who dislike the group.
The Yemeni government launched a campaign against al-Qaida on April 29, after a series of drone strikes on al-Qaida strongholds in three provinces. The Interior Ministry said this week that the militants had sustained “huge losses” in the strikes.
Governor Ali Bahaj of Shabwa province visited residents in Azzan, a region that had had been liberated by government troops, and thanked tribal leaders for helping the army in restoring order and chasing militants from the area.
Yemeni state TV reported militants had toppled a number of electricity pylons in the south of the country Friday, blacking out several regions and shutting down a major gas pipeline.
Militants in Sanaa also have attacked a number of foreign and government targets in recent days. A bus bombing wounded 11 police officers Friday and a drive-by shooting outside the Saudi embassy Thursday caused no casualties.
Yemeni government forces killed a top al-Qaida militant Shayef Mohammed Said al Shabwani Thursday. Shabwani is thought to be behind a series of kidnappings and killings of foreign nationals.
The U.S. embassy was temporarily closed Thursday due to the security situation in the capital and ongoing government military operations in the south. Nasser al Wuhayshi, the head of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, vowed to attack those he called “Western Crusaders” in a video message last month.