SANAA, Yemen — Suspected al-Qaida militants carried out simultaneous attacks Wednesday on a half-dozen Yemeni security and government offices in a province south of the capital Sanaa, setting off clashes that left at least 29 people dead, security officials said.
In a statement, the Interior Ministry said 14 troops and 15 assailants died in the attacks and ensuing clashes in central Baida province. Other security officials told The Associated Press that at least three civilians also were killed.
The ministry said the gunmen assaulted the province’s security headquarters, a special forces camp, an intelligence agency office and other government offices using car bombs. Troops fired back and thwarted the assailants’ attempt to take over the offices, it said.
The security officials who spoke to AP said the targets included a government communication office and an Education Ministry administrative building. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Yemen, an impoverished nation in the southern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, is home to an active branch of the al-Qaida terror network. It has long suffered attacks blamed on al-Qaida militants against security, army and intelligence personnel.
The United States has been aiding the embattled Yemeni government in the fight against the militants, using drones to target al-Qaida operatives, their camps and hideouts across much of Yemen.
Yemen is also mired in a political crisis between the central government and Shiite rebels who have been in control of the capital for the last two weeks. On Tuesday the rebels, known as Houthis, rejected President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s choice of a new prime minister, threatening to derail a U.N.-brokered peace deal.
On Wednesday night rebel leader Abdel-Malik al-Houthi delivered a televised statement calling on supporters to rally Thursday to protest the choice of Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, a 46-year-old businessman-turned-political figure.
Al-Houthi said his group was surprised by the nomination of bin Mubarak, which he said came after Hadi met with the U.S. ambassador to Yemen. Al-Houthi called Hadi a “puppet” in hands of foreign powers.
The rebels’ snub could signal a return to violence and could torpedo a Sept. 21 peace deal brokered by the U.N., which ended fighting that claimed the lives of at least 140 people.
The Houthis — who had held protests for weeks to demand a greater share of power and a change in government — took control of the capital on the same day that the agreement was reached, and after the military virtually collapsed. The deal called for the appointment of a new head of government, and for the Houthis to pull out of the city.