SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Two suicide bombers struck an army camp in central Yemen Saturday, killing one soldier while explosions rocked a southern port city and clashes erupted between suspected al-Qaida militants and security forces in the south, officials said.
The ongoing violence across Yemen highlights challenges facing the country after a yearlong political turmoil resulted in a security vacuum and gave al-Qaida the opportunity to seize several towns in the south.
The threat of al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula was a key reason why the United States played an active role in Yemen's transition after millions of Yemenis took to the streets demanding the ouster of longtime ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh.
After clinging to power for a whole year, Saleh officially stepped down after Yemenis voted in favor of his vice president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to replace him. Saleh's ouster is part of a U.S. and Arab backed power-transfer deal that gave him immunity from prosecution in return for leaving power.
Hadi, during his inaugural speech, said that his two top priorities are to restructure the army and launch a national dialogue among various political factions. His first decision was to replace top commanders loyal to Saleh in the southern province of Aden where officers were complaining that the outgoing commander was hindering supplies to their forces engaging in battles with al-Qaida.
On Saturday, Hadi held his first meeting with cabinet members since becoming president and urged his ministers to accomplish their mission with "no apologies or excuses."
Hadi's meeting came hours after suspected al-Qaida attackers drove a truck into a Republican Guard camp in the town of Bayda, 75 miles (120 kilometers) south of the capital Sanaa early on Saturday, a Yemeni security official said.
The town is close to an area seized by al-Qaida-linked militants in January.
The official said the bombers deceived the guards by bringing in an ox that they said was a present for the camp commander. Once inside, they detonated their explosives.
The Defense Ministry in a statement on Saturday said the operation was planned by al-Qaida fighters. They said a number of militants were killed, but they did not give an exact figure.
The statement also said that four Republican Guard troops and a civilian were wounded.
Two other explosions rocked the southern port city of Mukalla where officials said assailants placed explosives near the walls of a camp run by Yemen's Central Security, one of the agencies responsible for internal security.
In the city of Zinjibar in southern Yemen, fierce clashes erupted between suspected al-Qaida militants and security forces; one soldier and five al-Qaida militants were killed and 12 militants injured, according to medical and military officials.
Since last May, Yemeni forces intent on breaking al-Qaida's grip have clashed frequently with the terror group.
All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.