Al Qaeda claims killing of Yemeni commander

Al Qaeda's Yemeni wing claims responsibility for the assassination of a military commander.

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DUBAI - Al Qaeda's Yemeni wing has claimed responsibility for the assassination this week of a military commander credited with driving back allies of al Qaeda who had seized large parts of southern Yemen.

The killing of Major General Salem Ali Qatan in a suicide bombing in Aden was a reminder that government control of the south remains tenuous, despite a month-long U.S.-backed assault that has driven militants out of all the towns they held.

In a statement posted on Islamist Internet forums on Thursday, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) said the attack was a message to the "leaders of the joint American-Yemeni campaign".

"The message ... consists of the blood and body parts of the martyrdom-seekers who swore to pluck your rotten heads, which agreed to be a vehicle for America in its war against the Muslims in Yemen," the group said. It did not identify the bomber.

The Defence Ministry said on Monday that a suicide bomber had hurled himself at Qatan's vehicle as he headed to work in Aden, also killing two soldiers escorting him. It identified the bomber as a Somali national but gave no other details.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is believed to be the most active branch of the global network and has plotted a number of botched attempts against U.S. targets.

As government control waned during last year's popular protests that ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the al Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia seized a number of towns in Abyan province including Jaar, Zinjibar and Shaqra.

Saudi Arabia and the United States were unnerved by al Qaeda's growing presence so close to the world's top oil exporter, and to major shipping lanes.

U.S. officials say President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who came to power in February, is more cooperative in the fight against Islamist militancy than his predecessor was.