Details of Abyan attacks emerge

Published on 8 March 2012 in News
Abdurrahman Anees (author), Muaadh Al-Maqtari (author)

Abdurrahman Anees


Muaadh Al-Maqtari

Ansar Al-Shariah still detaining 55 soldiers as prisoners among them, more than ten officers.

Ansar Al-Shariah still detaining 55 soldiers as prisoners among them, more than ten officers.

ABYAN, March 7 — At least 150 soldiers died, while another 40 were left injured, as a result of intense fighting with the Ansar Al-Shariah group in Dofus last Sunday.

However, reports on the exact death toll have varied. While AFP sources stated that 185 soldiers from the Yemeni military were killed, different local sources in Abyan have come up with death tolls of 190 and 150. In any case, with continuous battles being fought, the numbers of dead and injured are expected to rise.

That armed men from Ansar Al-Shariah seized weapons and tanks from their opponents only served to increase the military's death toll.

Details of Dofus attacks

According to eyewitnesses, elements of the Ansar Al-Shariah group who had controlled Zunjubar and Ja’ar in Abyan since May 2011 reached the 39th Armored Brigade's artillery and canon base in Dofus at 4:00 AM on Sunday.

The military base - located at the Al-Alam checkpoint - is responsible for guarding the 119th and 115th brigades, both of which are stationed on the road to Aden.

Eyewitnesses said that when the armed militants approached the base, military leaders had already left the area. The armed men began their violent attack on the 39th Brigade. In the end,  the soldiers had aborted their positions and left their weapons and tanks behind, which the militants soon seized.

 At the same time, Ansar Al-Shariah militants attacked 115th and 119th brigade forces stationed at Dofus in the East Kood district, not far from Zunjubar.

The two brigades fought with the armed men, but were surprised by intense shelling which appeared to come from the 39th Brigade, already overcome by armed militants.

Leaders from the two brigades, under attack from two directions, signaled for relief from Aden. Reinforcements only arrived hours later at 10:00 AM. The Dofus position was regained at 3:00 PM, following a violent battle which lasted five hours.

A Southern Military Region source who requested anonymity said the effort to regain the Dofus position had been directly supervised by the United States military advisors.

The source indicated that airstrikes destroyed all the weapons seized by the armed militants. However, even if the armed group did not maintain control of the seized tanks, they still have 55 soldiers as prisoners among them, more than ten officers.

For their part, Ansar Al-Shariah sources said their militants gained control of one tank, anti-aircraft guns, Katyusha missiles and launchers, one canon, various other arms, and a store of ammunition.

Morgues crowded with corpses

A medical source at Basohaib Hospital stated that the hospital's morgue and other rooms were crowded with corpses after casualties were received from Dofus on Sunday morning, before adding that even the hospital's meeting hall was crowded with bodies. 

Dozens of the troops' bodies from the Dofus massacre remain inside the Yemeni Economic Corporation's refrigeration unit of the Yemeni Economic Corporation. Due to a lack of available space, Basohaib Hospital had been unable to receive them.

Suspicions of collusion

Since last Sunday's attack, some have pointed fingers at former Military Commander of the Southern Region Mahdi Maqwala, who was set to hand over his position on the same day.

Sunday had been set for the position to be handed over from Maqwala to his successor, Major General Salem Qatan. Maqwala was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff, while Qatan had received the position of Military Commander of the Southern Region by Republican Decree on Friday March 2.

According to military sources, the suspicions of military collusion with the armed groups exist but lack certitude and proof. In any case, there appears to have been a neglect of duty particularly by the Armored 39th Brigade.

One popular local leader, Mohammad Badaib, said that dealing with Al-Qaeda is extremely complicated, and pointed out that differences among some military units represented one of the causes behind a failures to defeat such Al-Qaeda-affiliated forces.

Badaib said that last Sunday's attacks came as a consequence of Maqwala's firing by new President Hadi. In his opinion, the firing had negative consequences, as he claimed Maqwala proceeded to hand over huge quantities of weapons and strategic military positions to the Al-Qaeda militants.

Badaib, a leader for the Southern Movement, said that Central Security paid the highest price in the week's last casualties, as the number of its soldiers killed in a single day – Sunday - reached 89. 70 of the soldiers had been killed inside a dining hall after being held for 15 hours.

Badaib quoted a high-ranking military source as saying that the corpses of over a 100 corpses had been placed inside refrigeration units at the Yemeni Economic Corporation.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meanwhile issued a statement in which she condemned the Al-Qaeda affiliated group's attack against the Yemeni military, and said that Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula doesn't care for the souls of human beings. At the same time, Clinton did not mention the issue of security.

The last deadline

Prominent Al-Qaeda leader in Zunjubar Jalal Balaidi, also known as Abu Hamza, said his group had given the Yemeni government a ten-day deadline in which it must withdraw its forces from Zunjubar. The deadline was given after news reports stated that military forces planned to launch intensive strikes against the group's positions in Zunjubar and Jaar.

In a statement published by the website Aden Al-Ghad, Balaidi said the Ansar Al-Shariah militants were ready to declare a victory, and that they will proceed with a “flowing river” plan. Details or explanations of what this plan would involve were not provided.

Balaidi also demanded that the government should promptly compensate displaced local citizens for their damages.