ADEN (Reuters) - A Yemeni army commander was shot dead in eastern Yemen on Monday as he was leaving home for work, the Yemeni Defense Ministry website said on Monday.
More than 70 military and security officers have been killed in southern and eastern Yemen since 2011 as Islamists exploit a power vacuum and political chaos left by a mass uprising that forced former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.
The www.26sep.net website quoted a military source as saying that assailants in a car ambushed Colonel Ahmed Mohammed al-Suhaili, commander of an army camp in Hadramout province and leader of the artillery battalion in the 37th armored brigade, about 100 meters (yards) from his home.
Suhaili exchanged fire and wounded one of them, the website said, but gave no information on who the attackers might be.
Restoring stability to Yemen, which borders top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and the Red Sea shipping route, is important for the United States and its Gulf Arab allies. They fear the Arabian Peninsula state - home to al Qaeda's regional wing - could disintegrate, allowing militants to operate freely.
As well as an al-Qaeda-linked insurgency, Yemen's challenges include a southern separatist movement and a political struggle in the north with Shi'ite Muslims who have fought several wars with the army since 2004.
(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Louise Ireland)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp