The ongoing fighting between the Yemeni government and a militant faction (either Ansar al-Sharia or al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) depending on the news source) continues to escalate today in the strategic town of Lawder, with locals reporting that the overall death toll of the last four days of fighting is now 177.
The latest reports have both the Yemeni government and the militants trading artillery fire, and the inclusion of government armed civilian “resistance committees” has brought the fighting, initially confined to the army post on the outskirts, into the city itself, putting growing numbers of civilians in the line of fire.
The fighting hasn’t just spread inside Lawder either, with reports that the nearby town of Mudia is also seeing fighting as militants clash with locals. The US has also become involved, attacking a stolen army vehicle with a drone and killing 12 “suspects.”
Ansar al-Sharia has held the Abyan capital of Zinjibar since June, and has consolidated most of the province under its control, beating back the military at every chance. Lawder is a particularly important town, on the only major highway leading northeast. Since Ansar al-Sharia, AQAP, and other factions have made recent gains north of Abyan, the fall of Lawder would give them an easy way to link up forces with their de facto capital.