Yemen officials: 2 commanders killed in clash with militants

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Clashes at a militia facility in southern Yemen following the arrest of a group of suspected al-Qaida militants have killed at least a dozen people, including two force commanders, officials said.

The officials said the fighting took place late Thursday night at the so-called safety belt headquarters in Dhale province. The Seatbelt is a militia trained and funded by the United Arab Emirates and loyal to the breakaway Southern Transitional Council. The force is active in the southern provinces of Yemen.

The militia reported that Colonel Waleed al-Dhami, deputy seat belt commander, and Colonel Mohamed al-Shoubagi, commander of the government’s counter-terrorism unit in Dhale, were killed. It offered no further details.

Security officials said the nearly hour-long firefight broke out when troops asked the militants to hand over their weapons. The militants refused and opened fire on the troops, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to inform reporters.

Eight militants and four security forces were killed in the fighting, including the two commanders, they said. There were a number of wounded troops who were taken to a hospital, the officials added.

Al-Qaeda and affiliates of the Islamic State are active in various regions of war-torn Yemen and have taken advantage of years of civil war to break through. The war pits Iran-backed Houthi rebels against the internationally recognized government, which is being assisted by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia. The UAE is part of the coalition.

Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has long been considered the most dangerous branch of the global network and has attempted to launch attacks on the US mainland.

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