Suspected al Qaeda militants have killed five Yemeni troops who were guarding an important gas export facility. The attack comes as the United States steps up its drone strikes on members of the terrorist network.
A local Yemeni official said the gunmen infiltrated a checkpoint at the Balhaf liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal early on Sunday in the southeast of the country, killed a guard, then entered a cargo container and shot dead the sleeping soldiers. He said the attackers fled in a vehicle.
A Yemeni government spokesman identified pipelines to the gas terminal, situated some 400 kilometers (248 miles) west of Aden, as one of two energy-related targets that suspected al Qaeda militants had been plotting to attack.
The 3.37-billion-euro ($4.5-billion) facility,which opened in 2009, is the largest industrial project ever undertaken in Yemen and is always heavily guarded. It supplies gas cooled to liquid for export by ship. The terminal is jointly managed by Yemen LNG and France's Total.
Sunday's attack comes amid a growing campaign of drone strikes in Yemen by the United States against suspected al Qaeda militants. At least 38 people have been killed since July 28 in nine drone attacks in the country.
The assault also follows the closure last week by the United States and other Western countries of a number of diplomatic missions in the Middle East and Africa, including in Yemen, in response to warnings of imminent attacks by militants.
The Yemen-based group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which was behind the threat, is considered by the US to be the deadliest branch of the international terrorist organization.
Washington said Friday it would reopen 18 of the 19 missions it closed, with the exception of the one in Yemen. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US consulate in the Pakistani city of Lahore, shut last week after a separate threat, would also remain closed.
tj/hc (Reuters, AFP, AP)