Gun battle ensues as military forces enter seized military compound in Al-Mukalla
Hamza Al-Samei, a military officer participating in the efforts to retake the base, said government forces have secured the first two stories of the building and are working on entering the third, where the gunmen are believed to be with the hostages. In the course of the gunfire exchange while entering the building, Al-Samei said two were shot dead.
Earlier on Wednesday, military officials said they were waiting to storm the building out of fear that the armed men inside might harm the hostages.
Forces said they acted late Wednesday evening because they believed the armed men may have reached a point of exhaustion.
Four planes filled with counterterrorism forces arrived in Al-Mukalla over the past two days., bringing roughly 1,000 men, Al-Samei said.
“We requested the support of counterterrorism forces as they are specialized in seizing and raiding places, unlike the soldiers here,” he added.
Omar Hamoud, an officer with the Second Military Region, said soldiers are deployed around the compound in order to prevent escape.
Government officials insist the armed men are Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) affiliates, while several media sources have reported that they are rebelling military units.
The armed men attacked the headquarters on Monday with heavy and medium weaponry after blowing up a military vehicle in the camp’s entrance. The men wore military uniforms, but Al-Samei said it is unknown whether they are affiliated with the military or not.
Hamoud says five soldiers were killed and 12 others were wounded in Monday’s attacks.