IS claims attacks on Yemen barracks with army blaming Qaeda

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Armed Yemeni tribesmen from the Popular Resistance Committees fire from a tank in the area of Sirwah, west of Marib city, on November 3, 2015

Armed Yemeni tribesmen from the Popular Resistance Committees fire from a tank in the area of Sirwah, west of Marib city, on November 3, 2015 (AFP Photo/Abdullah al-Qadry)

Aden (AFP) - The jihadist Islamic State group claimed responsibility for attacks on the army in southeast Yemen on Friday, after the military had blamed Al-Qaeda for the assaults that cost dozens of lives.

IS said in a statement, quoted by SITE monitoring group, that 50 Yemeni troops were killed in multi-pronged attacks including a suicide bombing and clashes in Hadramawt province.

The Yemeni army earlier said Al-Qaeda had launched the attacks on army positions near the town of Shibam, and that 12 soldiers and 19 jihadists were killed.

Medics later said the army lost 15 men and that several civilians were wounded.

Hadramawt province is a stronghold of Al-Qaeda whose militants control its capital Mukalla.

The IS group is also present in Yemen feeding on chaos in the country where a Saudi-led Arab coalition has been battling Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels opposed to the government.

Both Al-Qaeda and IS are visibly present in Yemen's second city Aden, where the Saudi-backed government has set up a temporary headquarters after the Huthis took over the capital Sanaa.

On October 6, the temporary headquarters came under attack in a series of bombings that lightly wounded several ministers and killed 15 people.

IS claimed the bombings which also hit military installations used by coalition troops.

In its latest claim, IS said its operation on Friday targeted "three barracks of the apostate Yemeni army" on a road near Shibam in Hadramawt, SITE reported.

IS said its fighters seized the barracks, killing or wounding those inside and that later a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-packed car into army reinforcements sent to the area.

The statement claimed that in all 50 soldiers were killed and said that clashes with Yemeni troops were still underway.

- 'Manhattan of the Desert' -

The army and local officials earlier blamed Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) for the attacks.

The main assault was staged at the western entrance to Shibam, known as the "Manhattan of the Desert" and listed as a UNESCO world heritage site for its high-rise mud-brick buildings, the army said.

Local officials said fierce clashes broke out after jihadists exploded a roadside bomb targeting an army patrol, while a suicide bomber blew up a car at an army post near a residential area.

"The blast damaged many homes, wounding several civilians," a medical source said in the nearby town of Seiyun, where the casualties and the bodies of the dead soldiers were transported.

Among the first bloody attacks that IS claimed in Yemen were a series of bombings against Shiite mosques in Sanaa in March that killed 142 people.

The jihadist Sunni Muslim IS considers Shiites as heretics.

Taking advantage of Huthi advances in northern and southern Yemen and the collapse of central authority, Al-Qaeda seized control in April of the port city of Mukalla.

For its part, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, has imposed a strict version of sharia Islamic law in areas of Yemen under its control.

The group has executed or lashed those it accused of "crimes" including homosexuality and sorcery. Those accused of theft have their hands cut off.