ADEN — Al Qaeda fighters captured the capital of a province in southern Yemen late on Friday, killing about 20 soldiers, before they were driven out by the army, local officials and residents said. The fighting came hours after suicide bombers killed 137 people in the national capital Sanaa, in coordinated attacks claimed by ISIS, an al Qaeda offshoot that controls swathes of Syria and Iraq.
Fighters from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) were forced to withdraw late on Friday night from al-Houta after holding it for several hours, the officials and residents said. Two army brigades then entered the city, capital of Lahj Province. There were no reports of any militant casualties.
Houta is only 20 miles from the Indian Ocean port of Aden, where President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has temporarily based the government since he escaped from weeks of house arrest in Sanaa by Houthi militia, which controls the Yemeni capital. Yemen has been hurtling toward civil war since last year when the Houthis advanced from their northern heartland, further undermining the country's tenuous internal security and creating more space in which AQAP can operate.