Yemen Southern Army Commander Qatan 'Dies In Suicide Attack'

The Yemeni army commander leading the fight against militants in the south of the country has been killed in a suicide attack, officials say.

Yemeni soldiers stop vehicles at a checkpoint in the port city of Aden

The Yemeni army commander leading the fight against militants in the south of the country has been killed in a suicide attack, officials say.

General Salem Ali Qatan was killed in the port city of Aden by a man wearing an explosives belt, reports said.

Yemen is battling militants linked to al-Qaeda who have taken control of parts of the south of the country.

The army has recently recaptured several strongholds in the restive southern province of Abyan.

Details of the attack are unclear.

One report citing witnesses said the attacker approached Gen Qatan - Yemen's southern army commander - as he walked to his office, handed him a paper, shook his hand and then detonated the explosives.

However, another report quoting officials said the bomber threw himself at the general's vehicle which was in a three-car convoy.

At least four other people were reported to be wounded in the attack.

Gen Qatan was appointed in March shortly after newly elected President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi took office.

'Huge loss'

Ali Mansur, a senior army commander and close aide to Gen Qatan, described the general's death as "a huge loss for Yemen".

Speaking to AFP by phone, he gave Gen Qatan full credit for recent successes against insurgents.

"In just three months, Qatan achieved major progress towards chasing down and eliminating [the militants]", he said.

Correspondents say militants are showing they still have the ability to strike despite losing ground to the army.

An al-Qaeda-linked insurgency and separatist unrest have blighted the south of Yemen for years.

Last year, empowered by uprisings against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Islamists consolidated their control over Abyan.

In a recent offensive, the Yemeni army recaptured the towns of Shuqra, Zinjibar and Jaar.