Militants were dressed up in military uniforms and drove cars with army license plates, one military official said. They struck at the transition between guard shifts, catching them by surprise, indicating they had information on the force's work schedules, the official said. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
In the deadliest attack, a suicide car bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into theInterior Ministry's al-Kamp Central Security camp in the town of al-Mayfaa, causing most of the deaths. Clashes at another site in al-Mayfaa site left at least five troops wounded, Nasser added.
Meanwhile, a car bomb was detonated prematurely outside the gates of the third site, the post in al-Ain. The blast was followed by heavy clashes during which militants seized six soldiers and a number of military vehicles. Eight militants were killed in the fighting at al-Ain, Nasser said.
Yemen's Supreme Security Committee, headed by the president, issued a statement listing 10 al-Qaida militants as top perpetrators of the attacks and vowed to bring "criminal, coward and terrorist elements to justice."
Part of Yemen's woes is the divisions within army ranks. Since Saleh's removal, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has vowed to restructure the military, removing Saleh's relatives in the Republican Guard forces and other key units in the military. But he has so far failed to carry out broader reforms purging Saleh loyalists from the military and other government posts, a move experts say is needed to improve the armed forces sand security.
Sanaa-based researcher in Islamic movements, Ziad al-Salami, said Yemen needs to speed up reforms, saying Friday's attacks were a "strong message" "Al-Qaida is trying to show that it still carries weight on the ground."
Al-Qaida militants are now present in four major Yemeni provinces Shabwa, Abyan, Hadramawt and Jouf, bordering Saudi Arabia, he said. "This belt is a strategic one because it's the region where oil is concentrated, and where Yemen has a long coastal line."
The surge of al-Qaida fighters in Yemen along with their increasing role in Syria's civil war raises the question of the role of the terror network's central leadership al-Zawahri and his lieutenants in coordinating the various branches. The leadership, based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions, had been thought to be reeling after bin Laden's death and later blows.
Hoffman, of Georgetown University, pointed to reports of al-Qaida central sending senior members to Syria and Yemen. "If the core is active overseas it's not as decimated in South Asia as we think," he said. "There's a proclivity to count al-Qaida out (but) it can still send key cadres to critical theatres of operation."
Foremost, al-Qaida has "hitched its fortunes to Syria," he said since a stronghold there brings it close to the top U.S. allies in the region, Turkey, Jordan and Israel.
In testimony Wednesday in Washington before a House subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence, analyst Katherine Zimmerman said there are "far-reaching" challenges in confronting the al-Qaida networks.
"Operations specifically targeting a single group, including AQAP, would have a limited overall effect on the network," said Zimmerman of the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based conservative think tank. 'The lateral connections relationships between al-Qaida groups create a latticed structure that adds to the resiliency of the network. "
AP Correspondents Maggie Michael in Cairo, Brian Murphy in Dubai, Adam Schreck inBaghdad and Raphael Satter in London contributed to this report.
Original Headline: Attack points to al-Qaida surge in Yemen
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