A Yemeni government spokesman tells Fox News that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is responsible for the deaths of at least 60 Yemeni soldiers in the southern province of Abyan after a massacre Sunday.
The attack at a forward operating base or FOB, about 10 miles from the strategic city of Zinjibar, an area largely controlled by the network's affiliate, included suicide bombers and VBIEDS (vehicle borne improvised explosive devices.)
The assault began from the east, and like a one-two punch, a second assault was launched form the north with AQAP operatives taking control of the Yemeni military's artillery and rockets, according to the Yemeni government spokesman
"This is an open war. It is a major blow to the military. AQAP are very strong. We have a serious problem now," he said.
In addition to the dead, Fox News was told that dozens were injured and some survivors were "taken prisoner or kidnapped." The assault was described as "ruthless and barbaric" according to the Yemeni government spokesman who was briefed on the massacre, adding "They slit throats. It was very personal -- the murders. It was meant to send a message."
Through its media arm, known as the al-Medad network, AQAP is reportedly distributing threatening newsletters and videotaped executions to intimidate the local population as AQAP attempts to build a base of operations in the south. At least three brigades of the Yemeni military were involved Sunday.
They were identified to Fox as the 39th brigade, 115th and 119th. The attack was described as significant because the new Yemeni president's commander in the south had just taken over his responsibilities.
According to the Yemeni government spokesman, the Al Qaeda affiliate now has firm control over at least four major centers in the southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, adding that this weekend's attack could not be seen in isolation.