Yemeni security sources say Yemen's defense minister has escaped an assassination bid during an offensive against al Qaeda fighters. And, in Sanaa, an al Qaeda commander has been killed.
Defense minister Mohammad Nasir Ahmad and two senior officers escaped unhurt when their convoy was ambushed on Friday, according to Yemeni security sources.
They were traveling from Abyan province to Shabwa province in southern Yemen where Yemen's military began an offensive on April 29, following a series of US drone strikes aimed at al Qaeda militants.
The sources said Ahmad was returning from a trip to monitor the offensive. A gun battle with assailants ensued, lasting 15 minutes.
Al Qaeda suspect reported dead
The ambush followed a claim by Yemeni security forces that they had killed an al Qaeda commander during a nighttime operation in the capital Sanaa late on Thursday.
The suspect Shayef Mohammed Said al-Shabwani was one of the "most dangerous" al Qaeda commanders, suspected of masterminding bids to kidnap Western diplomats, according to the state news agency Saba.
It said his car was stopped next to the presidential palace. Three other occupants were arrested, two of them wounded.
The local news site Mareb Press said instead that the dead man was a tribal sheikh, reporting that the group had been mistakenly identified.
Security forces targeted in Sanaa
On Friday, a bombing targeting a bus wounded 11 security forces members in a Sanaa district where the British and Qatari embassies are located.
In 2012, Yemen's army recaptured several major towns, but it has so far struggled to reassert control in rural areas.
Jihadists took advantage of the Arab Spring-inspired uprisings several years ago to force Yemen's veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh from power.
ipj/msh (dpa, AFP, Reuters)