SANAA, Yemen — Taking advantage of heavy fog, al-Qaida militants set off car bombs and launched coordinated attacks on Yemeni military barracks in three different locations in a southern province on Friday, killing at least 38 troops and wounding dozens of soldiers, a military official said.
The attacks were the largest since a U.S.-backed military offensive last year routed militants from significant swaths of territory they had seized during Yemen's 2011 political turmoil. The assaults also underscored the fragility of the Yemeni military and the failure of the current leadership to meet longtime demands to restructure the military.
For a year now, Yemen has been leading a war against al-Qaida's local branch, also known as the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The branch is considered by Washington as one of the world's most dangerous terror groups and has been behind a series of attacks on the military, as well as assassinations of security officers and government officials in suicide attacks or drive-by shootings.
The simultaneous, 6 a.m. attacks Friday in the southern province of Shabwa, a one-time al-Qaida stronghold, surprised and caught the soldiers unprepared in the early morning hours, said Maj. Mohammed Nasser.
The attacks took place in a remote region, about 312 miles southeast of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, Nasser said. The militants targeted three military encampments, two of them in the town of al-Mayfaa, and the third miles away, in the al-Ain area.