SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Al-Qaida militants briefly seized an army base next to the international airport in the southern Yemeni city of Aden on Wednesday, killing 14 soldiers and setting off an hours-long gunbattle before withdrawing, security and medical officials said. The group claimed responsibility in a statement.
The attack began before dawn on Eid al-Fitr, a major Muslim holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
A suicide car bomb struck the Central Security compound, while a second group of attackers wearing explosive vests stormed another gate under the cover of heavy gunfire, the officials said. The sound of gunfire and explosions echoed across the city for more than six hours, only halting after Apache helicopters carried out a series of strikes, forcing the attackers to withdraw.
At least 10 soldiers were wounded and six attackers were killed, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
Al-Qaida claimed responsibility in a statement posted on the Telegram messaging service. It said the attack was retaliation for "crimes" committed in Abyan and Lahj, an apparent reference to recent U.S. drone strikes.
Yemen is in the grip of a civil war pitting government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition against Shiite Houthi rebels and army units loyal to a former president. That conflict has hindered efforts to combat al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and an upstart Islamic State affiliate, which have exploited the crisis and carried out large-scale attacks in the south.
The conflict in Yemen has killed an estimated 9,000 people and pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine.