SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Suspected al-Qaida militants attacked a security checkpoint in southeastern Yemen on Monday, first sending in a suicide car bomb then storming it, officials said. They killed 22 troops and left only one survivor, who pretended he was dead.
The militants launched the surprise attack near the town of al-Rayda in Hadramawt province, gunning down members of the Central Security Forces while asleep in their quarters nearby, local security officials said.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said the attackers also set fire to an armored vehicle and another car near the checkpoint.
After the car bomb, the attackers drove into the checkpoint in 10 vehicles carrying what appeared to be stolen military license plates.
The one survivor pretended he was dead as he was drenched in blood, the officials said.
"This was a cowardly attack, and the culprits will not get away," the military commander of Hadramawt Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Somali told The Associated Press.
Yemen's al-Qaida branch, also known as Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, is considered by the U.S. to be the terror group's most dangerous offshoot.
The group increased its footprint in southern Yemen after the country's 2011 uprising.
Later Monday, the official SABA news agency said Yemen's newly-appointed Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Abdou Hussein el-Terb suspended three senior security officers pending investigation in the attack. The Interior Ministry is in charge of the Central Security Forces.
SABA said the gunmen, who approached the checkpoint in four cars, used heavy machineguns and fled the scene of the attack.
The suspended officials were Brig. Gen. Fahmi Mahrous, in charge of security in Hadramawt, Col. Abdel-Wahab al-Waili who commands the CSF, and Maj. Youssef Baras, commander of the attacked checkpoint.
Across Yemen, and especially in the volatile Hadramawt, the new government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has struggled, with the help of U.S. drone strikes, to push al-Qaida out of territory the militants captured during the political turmoil.