Al-Qaida gunmen kill 17 soldiers in Yemen

SANAA, Yemen—Suspected al-Qaida fighters killed at least 17 Yemeni soldiers in a pair of ambushes in the country’s restive south on Friday, officials said.

Both attacks took place near the town of Lawder in Abyan province, some 155 miles (250 kilometers) southeast of the capital of Sanaa. In the deadliest strike, gunmen killed 13 soldiers escorting a convoy of water tankers, said the province’s deputy governor, Salih al-Shamsi. He said the assailants fled and army units were pursuing them.

In the second attack, gunmen ambushed a convoy carrying the army’s brigade commander in Lawder, killing four soldiers and wounding two more, a security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to brief the media. The commander was unhurt in the attack.

Lawder was the scene of heavy fighting between Yemen’s military and al-Qaida fighters this fall after a series of insurgent attacks on security forces in the town and surrounding area.

Witnesses speaking by telephone from Lawder on Friday said sporadic fighting between army troops and militants continued on the town’s outskirts.

Yemen’s government is battling a resurgent al-Qaida presence in the country that also drew deep international concern after the terror network’s local offshoot claimed responsibility for an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner in December, 2009.

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