Yemeni officials on Tuesday (June 19th) vowed to continue the military campaign against al-Qaeda in southern Yemen, a day after a suicide bomber killed a high ranking military commander who led the campaigns to liberate southern cities previously controlled by Ansar al-Sharia.
President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and other senior government and military officials, led a large funeral procession Tuesday for Maj. Gen. Salem Ali Qoton, commander of the southern military region, who was killed Monday in a suicide attack allegedly by an al-Qaeda member.
Qoton was buried in his hometown of al-Rudum in Shabwa.
A Somali suicide bomber threw himself on Qoton's vehicle and then detonated his explosives, killing Qoton and two of his aides when the motorcade passed through the Rimi district where he resides. Five bystanders were wounded, including two women, according to the Ministry of Defence.
Qoton led the campaigns that enabled the army to liberate southern cities that were controlled by al-Qaeda, especially Zinjibar and Jaar.
"Qoton's assassination is a murderous act that reveals the state of decline that (al-Qaeda) finds itself in as a result of its defeat on the battlefield," Abdo al-Janadi, the deputy minister of information, told Al-Shorfa.
Al-Janadi condemned the murder, which he said was decried by all segments of Yemeni society.
President Hadi wrote a letter of condolence to Qoton's family, expressing remorse and vowing that the nation will continue to combat terrorism.
"The death of your father is a great loss not only for you, but for the country, its people, and its armed and security forces," Hadi wrote. "His martyrdom, however, will not deter us from continuing to purge the country of the evils of the murderous terrorists and maintain security and stability. It will only strengthen our determination and resolve to walk along the path chosen by your father the martyr and all of the nation's righteous martyrs."
Dr. Ali Hassan al-Ahmadi, governor of Shabwa province, ordered a joint security campaign Monday throughout the province to purge it of remaining al-Qaeda fighters.
Units from the 21st Mika Brigade, central security forces, rescue police, military police, public security, and local tribesmen are participating in the campaign, according to an online statement posted on the Yemeni Ministry of Defence's website.
Al-Ahmadi said in press statements the government is determined to "confront the elements of this terrorist organisation until they are completely eradicated".
Al-Janadi said the war on terror is continuing especially after the success of the military campaign led by Qoton.
"The martyrdom of Qoton at the hands of a suicide bomber reflects the strength of the army and the weakness of al-Qaeda, which has failed in the overt war it used to take control of parts of Yemen and has switched to a covert war using suicide attacks," al-Janadi said.
Al-Janadi said the military and security operations in Shabwa "are part of the continuing battle Yemen is waging on terrorism, led by al-Qaeda or Ansar al-Sharia, who have become incapable of confrontation as a result of the losses they suffered in Abyan".
Mohammed al-Ghabri, a political analyst, said the attack on Qoton reveals the state of "floundering and despair" that al-Qaeda is experiencing, leading it to seek revenge for the defeats it suffered on the battlefield.
"With Qoton's assassination al-Qaeda sought to achieve a propaganda victory after having been forced to withdraw from its strongholds," he said.
Al-Ghabri called for providing the necessary security precautions to protect military commanders and prevent another such suicide attack.