SANAA, Yemen -- Clashes at a militia facility in southern Yemen following the arrest of a group of suspected al-Qaida militants has killed at least a dozen people, including two force commanders, officials said.
The officials said the fighting took place late Friday at the headquarters of the so-called Security Belt force in Dhale province. The Security Belt is a militia trained and funded by the United Arab Emirates and loyal to the secessionist Southern Transitional Council. The force is active in Yemen’s southern provinces.
The militia reported that Col. Waleed al-Dhami, deputy commander of the Security Belt, and Col. Mohamed al-Shoubagi, commander of the government’s counterterrorism unit in Dhale, were killed. It did not offer further details.
The security officials said the nearly hour-long firefight erupted when troops asked the militants to hand over their weapons. The militants refused and opened fire at the troops, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
Eight militants and four security forces were killed in the fighting, including the two commanders, they said. There were a number of wounded troops who were taken to a hospital, the officials added.
Al-Qaida and Islamic State group affiliates are active in several regions of war-torn Yemen and have taken advantage of the yearslong civil war to make inroads. The war pits Iran-backed Houthi rebels against the internationally recognized government, which is aided by a Saudi-led coalition. The UAE is part of the coalition.
The Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has long been considered the global network’s most dangerous branch and has attempted to carry out attacks on the U.S. mainland.