Yemeni soldiers hold up their weapons at a position taken
from al Qaeda militants in Mayfaa, in the southeastern
province of Shabwa. REUTERS/Yemen's Defence Ministry
Gunmen believed to be linked to al Qaeda attacked Yemen's
presidential palace and tried to kill the defence minister in
his car, selecting high profile targets in apparent reprisal
for the army's biggest push against militants in nearly two
Four soldiers were killed in a gun battle of up to an hour
that broke out when militants attacked the main gate of the
palace in the capital Sanaa, a security source said.
An explosion was later heard near a building used by the
government's intelligence services in another district of the
city, residents told Reuters. There was no immediate word on
the cause of the blast.
In the south, Defence Minister Muhammad Nasir Ahmad escaped
an assassination bid by suspected al Qaeda gunmen who
attacked a motorcade carrying him and a number of senior
security officials in the southerly province of Shabwa.
The violence capped a turbulent few days both for Yemen -- a
country Washington sees as one of the main battlefields in
its global campaign against Islamist militants -- and for its
A French security agent working for the European Union was
shot dead in the capital on Monday. Security forces staged
raids on suspected militants across the capital on Wednesday
and shot dead the man they said was responsible for the
Frenchman's killing and for a number of other attacks on
Citing recent attacks against Western interests in Yemen, the
United States closed its embassy in Sanaa to the public.
This month, the government has stepped up its most concerted
campaign in almost two years against the Yemeni group
considered al Qaeda's most active unit, al Qaeda in the
Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), driving it from some of its
strongholds in the south.
The push followed air strikes against AQAP in April that the
government said had killed at least 55 militants, the biggest
against al Qaeda since at least 2012.
The militants have claimed attempted bombings of Western
airliners and carried out dozens of bomb and suicide attacks
and commando-style raids against military installations,
government facilities and foreign nationals.
Saudi Arabia also watches AQAP with concern, since the branch
was founded by citizens of both countries and has sworn to
bring down its ruling al-Saud family.
In a separate incident on Friday, four soldiers were killed
in an ambush by suspected al Qaeda fighters in the central
province of al-Bayda, tribal sources told Reuters.
In Sanaa, a security source told Reuters that a vehicle
carrying a number of armed militants suspected to be linked
to al Qaeda had attacked the main gate of the palace and
gunfire broke out.
"Four soldiers at the palace were killed by the militants,"
said the security source.
"There was a gunfight that lasted about 45 minutes and then a
few of the militants managed to escape with their car," the
source said, adding that there were casualties on both sides.
The source said security forces in the area were looking for
the militants in a nearby public garden.
The insurgents have posed a challenge to government efforts
to restore stability to the U.S.-allied country since veteran
president Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to step down in 2012
after months of pro-democracy protests.
Western countries fear that further destabilisation in Yemen,
whose government is also being challenged by separatists in
the south and unrest in the north, could give more space to
AQAP to plot attacks on international targets.