SANAA, Yemen, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Armed insurgents affiliated with al-Qaida in Yemen seized control of a city about 90 miles south of Sanaa, security officials said.
Security officials told the independent Yemen Post that armed clashes between militants with al-Qaida and residents in Rada are ongoing. The number of casualties is unknown, though a group said to be affiliated with al-Qaida and calling itself the Islamic Jihad Group claimed control over the city.
Unidentified analysts told the newspaper that al-Qaida could use the city as a staging ground to expand its influence. Al-Qaida militants are led by Tariq al-Dahab, a relative of al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki, killed last year in an attack by a CIA drone.
Awlaki was the key spokesman and ideologue for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni franchise of al-Qaida.
Critics of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh accuse him of using al-Qaida attacks to get the attention of the United States in a bid to cling to power, the Post adds.
Saleh last year agreed to sign a political transition deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council in exchange for immunity from prosecution. He delayed signing the deal for much of last year after his country was caught up in the uprisings dubbed the Arab Spring.