Qaeda kills 'dozens' short after formation of new government in Yemen
Al-Qaeda claimed its militants killed "dozens" of Shiite rebels in Yemen on Saturday, hours after the formation of a new government intended to take the strife-torn country out of crisis.
The cabinet was formed shortly before the UN Security Council slapped sanctions against influential former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and two rebel commanders for threatening peace.
And in apparent retaliation on Saturday, Saleh's General People's Congress party sacked from its leadership Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, following accusations he solicited the sanctions.
Yemen has been dogged by instability since an Arab Spring-inspired uprising forced Saleh from power in February 2012, and the Shiite Huthi rebels and Al-Qaeda have sought to step into the power vacuum.
In the latest violence, Al-Qaeda claimed twin attacks that it said killed "dozens" of Huthis in the central region of Rada, where the Sunni Muslim jihadists have halted a rapid territorial advance by their Shiite rivals.
The new government was formed as part of a UN-brokered peace deal under which the Huthis are supposed to withdraw from the capital Sanaa, which they seized control of in September.
Though the Huthis, who are also known as Ansarullah, are not directly represented in the new government, six of their members are considered close to the insurgents.
Washington, which sees Hadi as a key ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda, welcomed the new cabinet and encouraged the impoverished Arab nation to overcome partisan politics after the weeks of turmoil.
The US National Security Council called on all political actors "to continue to cooperate in the new government," according to spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.
"This multi-party cabinet must represent the strength of Yemeni unity over individual and partisan interests that may seek to derail the goals of a nation."
On November 1, the main parties signed an agreement brokered by UN envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar for the formation of a government of technocrats.
Under the accord, representatives of the rebels and their rivals, the Sunni Al-Islah (Reform) Islamic party, mandated Hadi to form a government and committed to support it.
In the wake of the new agreement, Benomar warned in an interview that without the rapid formation of a government, tensions between Shiites and Sunnis were likely to increase, sinking the country deeper into crisis.
On Saturday, however, Al-Qaeda said it launched two attacks against Huthi posts in Rada.
"Dozens of Huthis were killed and wounded," it said, when a militant rammed his explosives-laden car into a medical centre converted by Huthis into a barracks, in the region of Manaseh.
There was no way to immediately verify the report.
In another attack, Al-Qaeda militants opened fire on a school occupied by rebels in Jarrah valley, also near Rada, tribal sources and the jihadist group said.
An Al-Qaeda statement posted online said four jihadists stormed the building.
The Huthis are widely thought to be backed by Saleh.
On Friday, the UN Security Council slapped US-proposed visa ban and assets freeze on him and two allied Shiite rebel commanders for threatening peace in the impoverished country.
Washington said Saleh "was behind the attempts to cause chaos throughout Yemen" by using the Huthis to "not only delegitimise the central government, but also create enough instability to stage a coup".
On Friday, Saleh supporters had protested alongside rebels denouncing the planned sanctions.
The top UN body in August called on the Huthis to end their armed uprising and warned of sanctions against those who threaten the stability of Yemen.
The turmoil has raised fears that the Arabian Peninsula nation, which neighbours oil-flush Saudi Arabia and lies on the key shipping route from the Suez Canal to the Gulf, may become a failed state.