July 14th, 2010
10:17 AM ET

5 killed in attacks on security buildings in Yemen

Three Yemen security force members and two militants were killed in strikes on separate security buildings in the southern region of the Arab nation Wednesday, an official who is authorized to talk to the media confirmed to CNN.

The attacks took place in the Abyan province as security forces were lining up for morning marches, other local officials told CNN. One of the buildings is used by Yemeni intelligence and the other by police.

The Yemeni official, who asked not to be named, said more than 10 people on motorbikes staged the attacks, which also left more than a half dozen injured.

The official said that the attackers used rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and guns in a siege that lasted for more than 30 minutes.

"We believe they are part of al Qaeda, because they are using the same technique, the hit and run strategy," the official said of the attackers. They managed to escape to a nearby region rich with deserts and mountains. The government sent its ground forces and helicopters to hunt down the attackers.

In recent years, the al Qaeda terrorist network appears to have gained a foothold in Yemen, according to analysts familiar with the region.

Washington began eyeing the impoverished desert nation as a possible new haven for al Qaeda as early as 2001, after the group's attacks on New York and Washington triggered the invasion of Afghanistan.

It is the ancestral homeland of al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, whose followers bombed the destroyer USS Cole in a Yemeni port a year before the September 11 attacks.

The government is fighting a four-month battle against a Shiite Muslim uprising in its northwest and faces increasing pressure from a separatist movement in its south.

Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi acknowledged earlier this year that those insurgencies gave al Qaeda space to gain ground within its borders. Al-Qirbi estimated the strength of the Yemen-based branch of al Qaeda at between 200 and 300 fighters.

CNN's Caroline Faraj contributed to this report.

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