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Yemen defence minister escapes blast

Filed on September 1, 2011

ADEN — Yemen’s defence minister escaped unharmed when a bomb went off Tuesday in a village in southern Abyan province, an Al-Qaeda stronghold, a military official said.

“Two soldiers were killed and two others wounded in the explosion of the device in a convoy of the defence minister (Mohammed Nasser Ahmed Ali) near Al-Kud,” a village the army recaptured from Al-Qaeda two days ago, the official said.

Ahmed “escaped unhurt,” said the same source, adding the two men who were killed were bodyguards of the south’s military commander, General Mehdi Maqwala, who had been accompanying the minister.

“We have reports that Al-Qaeda has planted 150 explosive devices in areas it controls, and the explosion today could be due to one of these devices.”

The minister had been on his way to an end-of-Ramadan inspection of brigades fighting against Al-Qaeda in Abyan, whose capital Zinjibar has been occupied by Islamist militants since the end of May.

Suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen killed 10 Yemeni soldiers and several others were wounded at Dofes village, near Zinjibar, during clashes on Sunday and Monday, the military said.

In the latest clashes in the area on Tuesday, military shelling killed “six Al-Qaeda fighters,” whose bodies were taken to hospital in the Qaeda-held village of Jaar, according to a local official.

Since the end of May, fighters linked to Al-Qaeda have seized control of several Abyan towns, taking advantage of the weakening of central authority amid nationwide protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The veteran leader has been recovering in Saudi Arabia for more than two months from bomb blast wounds.

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