An all-day clash in the southern Yemeni town of Lawder has reportedly killed at least 64 people, including 18 members of the Yemeni military. The fighting saw militants attacking a Yemeni army post in the town, in the Abyan Province.
Also among the slain were six civilians, who according to Yemeni military reports took up arms to help the military defend the base from attacking militants. Local anti-al-Qaeda tribes offered to contribute fighters to keep the strategically valuable town from falling, and said the Yemeni military was providing them with arms.
Interestingly, reports from the local government officials say that the military abandoned the fight almost immediately, withdrawing and locking themselves in the barracks after the first wave of attacks — leaving the civilians and tribesmen to fight the militants.
Lawder is on Abyan’s one major highway, and links the capital of Zinjibar, which fell to the Ansar al-Sharia faction nearly a year ago, with provinces to the north and west. Ansar al-Sharia and other al-Qaeda linked factions have made gains north of Lawder as well, and the town’s capture would allow them to link up.