The capital city has been witnessing intensified security measures, a move aimed at curbing any potential attacks in retaliation for the ongoing military offensives in Abyan and Shabwa in southern Yemen.
Security forces stepped up their presence in certain areas after security checkpoints near the presidential palace were attacked on two consecutive nights on the weekend. A security source and eyewitnesses said four militants and four soldiers were killed in the two attacks.
The Interior Ministry’s website reported that on Friday evening militants launched the first attack on a checkpoint manned by the Special Security Forces near the Al-Misbahi roundabout tunnel, close to the presidential compound. Four soldiers and one civilian were killed. The militants fled the scene.
Abdulla Al-Awsh, an officer at a security checkpoint at Al-Misbahi roundabout, told the Yemen Times that the militants were traveling in a Toyota Hilux pickup. He said they caught the security forces by surprise, killing the four.
A civilian who was carrying a pistol at the time opened fire on the militants but was killed.
“The gunmen thought they would be able to enter the presidential compound by storming the security checkpoint but they didn’t know that there are more than five checkpoints inside the tunnel,” Al-Awsh added.
Soldiers closed streets surrounding Al-Misbahi roundabout and patrolled the area in search of the perpetrators’ cars, according to Habib Haider, an eyewitness.
“We heard heavy shooting but the soldiers ordered us to close our shops to avoid being caught in crossfire,” he added.
Two hours after the Friday attack, soldiers from the Special Security Forces closed all streets near the Presidential Compound. On Sunday, shortly after midnight, four militants were killed as they attempted to pass through the same checkpoint towards the presidential palace. The militants were traveling in a car and a four-wheel drive.
“Militants attacked the checkpoint personnel at 2a.m. They [the militants] were in a Monica car and a pickup without registration numbers. They opened fire on the soldiers at the checkpoint, but none were injured. The soldiers struck back and clashed with them for some minutes. Four militants were killed,” said Al-Awsh.
He added that suspects in a taxi and on a motorbike appeared to be surveying the scene about a halfhour prior to the attack.
Security forces were still deployed on the streets around Al-Misbahi on Monday.
“The security forces have taken several precautionary procedures around and inside the capital in anticipation of any terrorist attacks,” the Interior Ministry said on its website on Saturday.
“The security forces intensified their field presence and the number of checkpoints, and assigned more soldiers to guard the foreign embassies and houses of diplomats,” added the statement.
On April 29, Yemen’s military began a campaign against alleged Al-Qaeda affiliates in Shabwa and Abyan governorates.