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Qaeda assault kills at least 30 Yemeni soldiers
by Staff Writers
Aden (AFP) March 4, 2012

Fierce clashes between the Yemeni army and Al-Qaeda in the country's restive south killed at least 30 soldiers and 12 militants on Sunday, medics and officials said.

"So far 30 soldiers have been killed and the toll is expected to rise as some bodies have not been transferred to hospital yet," a military official said on condition of anonymity.

He said that "many more soldiers were wounded" in the clashes south of Zinjibar, Abyan's provincial capital where the army has been battling Islamists since May.

A medic at a military hospital in the southern port city of Aden confirmed the death toll.

Military officials said Sunday's clashes erupted after Al-Qaeda linked militants tried to overrun an army post in Kud, sparking a firefight.

A local official in Jaar, a nearby extremist stronghold, said 12 Al-Qaeda militants died in the firefight. Thirty soldiers, 10 of them wounded, were captured, he added.

An official in Kud, meanwhile, told AFP that Al-Qaeda gunmen had taken away the bodies of three of the soldiers killed.

The militants also seized heavy weapons before pulling back to Zinjibar, an army source said, accusing some army leaders who had served under former president Ali Abdullah Saleh of "collaborating" with Al-Qaeda.

It was the latest in a spate of attacks against security forces since President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi took over from Saleh and was sworn in on February 25 under a Gulf-brokered transition accord.

On Friday, Hadi, who must restructure the army during his two-year interim period in power, named General Salem Ali Qatan to head the 31st Armoured Brigade in southern Yemen.

The post had been held for decades by General Mahdi Maqola, known for his close ties to Saleh and accused of corruption.

Zinjibar has fallen mostly under the control of Al-Qaeda militants since May at a time that protests were raging across the country against Saleh's 33-year rule.

On the day Hadi was sworn in, vowing to carry on Saleh's fight against the network, an Al-Qaeda suicide bomber blew up his vehicle outside a presidential palace in the southeastern province of Hadramawt killing 26 soldiers.

Late on Saturday, hours after a similar suicide attack killed a Republican Guard soldier in southwest Yemen, suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen shot dead a police officer Colonel Shaef al-Nahmi, also in Hadramawt, a security official told AFP.

Separately on Sunday, Abdullah Idris, the head of Saleh's General People's Congress party branch in Rada, a town southeast of Sanaa, was "seriously" wounded when his car exploded, a military official said.

His two companions were also wounded in the blast in Rada, which Al-Qaeda briefly captured in mid-January, the same source said.

Saleh had declared himself a US ally in its "war on terror" but some of his opponents accused him of exaggerating the Al-Qaeda threat in a bid to win Western support to cling to power.

Critics charge he may even have deliberately surrendered cities such as Zinjibar.

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Al-Qaeda offshoot claims Algeria attack
Gao, Mali (AFP) March 3, 2012 - An Al-Qaeda splinter group claimed Saturday to have carried out a suicide attack on a police base in southern Algeria which left 23 people wounded according to the defence ministry.

"We inform you that we are behind the explosion that occurred this morning at Tamanrasset," a message sent to AFP and signed by the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa said.

"The explosion caused serious material damage to the building located on the main street of Tamanrasset as well as nearby homes," the Algerian defence ministry said in a statement, carried by the national news agency APS.

"Four gendarmes are under medical observation," it said. The gendarmerie said 15 gendarmes, five members of the civil protection organisation and three passers-by were taken to hospital.

The gendarmerie said "a terrorist" driving a Toyota 4x4 targeted the main entrance of the base in Tamanrasset, 1,970 kilometres (1,220 miles) south of Algiers at 7:45 am (0645 GMT) Saturday.

The website of the Algerian Arabic-language daily En Nahar said the bomber was blown apart in the blast. It was the first time such an attack had been reported in the area.

The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Jamat Tawhid Wal Jihad Fi Garbi Afriqqiya) surfaced in December, when it claimed to be holding three Westerners kidnapped from a Western Sahara refugee camp in Algeria in October.

Security sources said it had broken off from the main group, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), in order to spread jihad to west Africa and not confine themselves just to the Maghreb or Sahel regions.

The group released a video of the abducted aid workers and another showing six dark-skinned, turbaned men speaking of their ideological references, including Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar but putting more emphasis on historical figures of west African Islam.

Also in December, Mali and Algeria agreed to step up coordination in efforts to root out Al-Qaeda-linked groups in the region.

Al-Qaeda-linked groups have been active in Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania for a decade but their activity has picked up since the fall of Moamer Kadhafi scattered the slain Libyan strongman's arsenal across the region.

In April 2010, the four countries formed a Committee of Joint Chiefs (CEMOC), based in Tamanrasset, a garrison town near the border with Mali and Niger, to coordinate their military efforts against AQIM.

On Saturday, a source close to mediators trying to secure the release of an Italian and two Spanish aid workers kidnapped in October said the Movement for Oneness and Jihad wanted 30 million euros ($39 million) for their release.


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Sudan's Bashir, minister dance after ICC warrant
Khartoum, Sudan (AFP) March 3, 2012
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir danced on Saturday with his defence minister at a rally for paramilitary troops two days after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the latter's arrest. "We will start a major campaign to face the enemies of God and the state," Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein told more than 1,000 members of the People's Defence Force (PDF), forme ... read more

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