Yemen al-Qaida Wing Threatens to Execute Army Hostages
    2012-03-08 04:30:30     Xinhua       Web Editor: Zhang

The Yemen-based al-Qaida wing threatened on Wednesday to execute a total of 73 army hostages if the government did not immediately release its jailed members, a leading member of the al-Qaida militants told Xinhua.

"If the Yemeni government authorizes or its western allies attempt to launch a military operation against our strongholds in a bid to free the captured soldiers before freeing our members from the intelligence jails in the capital of Sanaa, we will kill all the army hostages with execution-style in Abyan's desert," the al-Qaida member said on condition of anonymity.

The al-Qaida wing accused the United States of "dispatching pilots and military experts to support the Yemeni army forces in striking the group and freeing army captives."

"A number of U.S. officers arrived on Tuesday to the al-Anad military air base in neighboring Lahj province to prepare for an imminent military strike on our fighters and releasing the hostages held by the organization," he said.

"We send this strong-worded warning to the leadership of the country's Defense Ministry: if they conducted this strike, it means we are not responsible for the death of their 73 army soldiers and senior officers," he added.

Meanwhile, a government soldier in the suburbs of Zinjibar, Abyan's provincial capital, told Xinhua anonymously that "dead bodies of several government troops were found scattered across the roads of the city."

On Sunday, dozens of al-Qaida fighters carried out a massive assault against a Yemeni military base in the outskirts of Abyan province, killing more than 180 soldiers and looting the base along with its heavy weaponry, tanks and armored vehicles, according to senior army officials.

Suicide car bombings and violent attacks against the army have increased over the past two weeks. A deadly suicide bombing targeting the presidential palace in the southern province of Hadramout killed nearly 30 soldiers of the elite Republican Guard forces. The al-Qaida wing claimed responsibility for the attack in the following day.

The AQAP attacks underscored the challenges facing the Yemeni government, which is tasked with restoring security and stability to Yemen and putting an end to the growing influence of al-Qaida that threatens the daily oil shipping routes in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

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