Insurgents, possibly belonging to al-Qaida, attacked the main Yemeni police intelligence headquarters in the Southern Yemeni capital of Aden Saturday, killing at least 11 people and wounding at least nine others. Eyewitnesses report that a number of prisoners were also set free during the bloody shootout.
Insurgents wearing military uniforms stormed the main gate of the Yemeni police intelligence compound in the city of Aden Saturday, causing numerous casualties and embarrassing the government.
Eyewitnesses say the attackers fired assault weapons, mortars and grenades at those guarding the building, as well as employees and civilians inside the compound. The bloody shootout lasted for over an hour and set fire to parts of the building.
Yemeni government TV said that the attackers freed a number of prisoners. Police in Aden set up roadblocks all across the old city after the insurgents withdrew.
Yemeni security forces have stepped up attacks against southern separatist rebels, as well as al-Qaida militants, during the past month, causing numerous casualties among their ranks, as well as among civilians, according to some sources.
Yemen Post newspaper editor-in-chief Hakim Almasmari says that facial features of the assailants reveal that they were southerners, but he argues it is still not clear if they were separatists or al-Qaida militants. Al-Qaida, he points out, announced Friday that it would retaliate for government attacks against it in eastern Yemen.
"Al-Qaida last night announced that they will attack because of [government raids on its militants] in Maarib over the past month. The government killed many in Maarib, and many of those who were killed were also civilians, even though seven al-Qaida [militants] were killed. So, al-Qaida [was] on the verge of retaliation," said Almasmari.
Southern tribesmen in Maarib also recently blew up a key oil pipeline after a government airstrike accidentally killed an official trying to mediate with al-Qaida militants in the region.
Al-Qaida militants have attacked Yemeni police headquarters in the capital Sana'a, several times, in recent years, freeing a number of prisoners. Hakim Almasmari, however, insists that Saturday's attack in Aden was by far the biggest and most embarrassing for the government.
"This is massive," he said. "This is much, much bigger than what happened last year [in Sana'a]. This attack is very, very massive and the death toll is very high. The government has even fired the two main political security officials in Aden. They were fired early in the morning [Saturday]. So, the government is surprised that they were able to enter the [southern] capital and also they're questioning other officials inside the public security to see if they aided the attackers."
Yemen has prompted increasing concerns among Western governments, as al-Qaida militants and southern separatists wage battle against the central government in Sana'a. Both threats follow a protracted rebellion by Zaidi shi'ite rebels in the northern Saada province, last year.