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Yemen: Troops regain control of military base

October 2, 2013

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni troops stormed Wednesday a military base overrun by suspected al-Qaida militants, and a senior officer said that the government had regained control of the compound after a three-day standoff.

It was not clear if soldiers reportedly taken hostage by the militants at the beginning of the siege have survived. Maj. Gen. Mohsen Nasser told the Associated Press that all the militants were killed in the operation, which followed three hours of intense clashes. He said hostages are believed to be freed, but he didn’t have a count of the number held.

The gunmen had planted explosives and deployed snipers to keep security forces away, officials say.

At least 10 soldiers and security agents have been killed since the start of the standoff at the base in the eastern province of Hadramawt.

The militants, dressed in fatigues and riding in military trucks, overran the base on Monday and took an unknown number of soldiers hostage. The military sent in reinforcements and surrounded the building.

Nasser said the militants had refused to surrender, forcing authorities to storm the building.

The brazen attack and the standoff underscored al-Qaida’s ability to stage ambitious attacks that exploit lax security in Yemen.

Meanwhile, a Yemeni national security court opened an investigation into three former top military officials including a nephew of the former president for alleged negligence in connection to a 2012 suicide attack on a military parade that killed more than 90 conscripts, security officials said.

The court also sentenced five militants to up to ten years in prison for their role in the bombing in the capital Sanaa.

The court said the senior officials, including the nephew of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, were not present during the attack. The court said this was evidence they were implicated in the attack, the officials said. Lawyers for the accused could not immediately be contacted.

Separately, officials say suspected al-Qaida militants killed four soldiers in an attack on a military checkpoint in the southern Hadramawt province.

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

The al-Qaida branch in the Arabian Peninsula is considered one of the most dangerous offshoots of the group in the region. The U.S. has supported Yemen’s campaign against the group, and U.S. drones have targeted its members.

Update hourly