The death toll of Yemeni soldiers killed in an attack against an army base rose to 185 on Tuesday (March 6th). The attack was the latest in a string of attacks targeting the Yemeni military and blamed on al-Qaeda.
Yemeni officials and analysts described the attacks as a violent response to the growing success of the democratic process in Yemen.
The attacks targeted army bases in southern Yemen where Ansar al-Sharia, an al-Qaeda affiliate, has been active for months. They began one week after Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi assumed office and vowed that fighting al-Qaeda would be a major priority during his two-year tenure.
Following a February 25th attack on the presidential palace in Mukalla in Hadramaut province, the Yemeni army in Zinjibar, Abyan's capital, issued an ultimatum to al-Qaeda militants to pull out of the cities of Jaar and Zinjibar within one week. The Mukalla attack, which killed 26 soldiers, was launched the day Hadi took the oath of office.
Successive attacks attributed to al-Qaeda were subsequently launched, culminating in an attack on an army camp in Dofes Valley in Abyan on Sunday that killed 185 soldiers and at least 25 al-Qaeda fighters, according to AFP.
On Sunday, the Ministry of Defence said that al-Qaeda used car bombs to attack and seize the camp, but the soldiers of the 39th Armored Brigade and the 115th Infantry Brigade responded to the attack, regained full control of the site, expelled the terrorists, and re-opened the main road between Zinjibar and Dofes.
Col. Mohammed al-Qaidi, spokesman for Yemen's Ministry of Interior, told Al-Shorfa, "Some groups are not pleased with the country's emergence from the narrow tunnel it was in for an entire year, nor are they pleased that the Yemeni people decided to end the crisis after the success of the presidential elections."
"What these groups hope to achieve with their despicable terrorist attacks is to affirm their existence by disrupting security and stability, but they will not succeed in achieving their despicable goals," he said.
Al-Qaeda is trying to take advantage of the nation's political transition by carrying out suicide attacks, said Dr. Fares al-Saqqaf, head of the Centre for Future Studies.
The recent presidential elections "are a real threat to al-Qaeda, which benefited from political conditions in Yemen to expand in several areas. That goes against its policy, which typically relies on the creation of covert cells and fighting guerrilla warfare," al-Saqqaf told Al-Shorfa.
"Al-Qaeda wants to deliver a message to President Hadi and the international community that it still exists and is strong, but its suicide attacks prove otherwise because they have not led to the victory the organisation is seeking," he said.
"What al-Qaeda seeks with its suicide bombings is to spread fear among the soldiers, especially as the army is preparing for a decisive resolution to the battle with al-Qaeda in the south," Abdo al-Janadi, Yemen's Deputy Minister of Information, told Al-Shorfa.
Al-Janadi noted Hadi's pledge to eradicate al-Qaeda as "a religious and national duty" and the recent appointments to the army's leadership in the south, saying the moves aim to unify the army and boost efforts in the fight against terrorism.
"These moves prompted al-Qaeda to carry out attacks to weaken the army's morale," he said.