SANAA, Yemen — Al-Qaida militants killed 15 soldiers in southern Yemen after seizing them from a public bus on Friday, military officials and witnesses said, in apparent retaliation to an army offensive against the group.
The officials said the soldiers had been heading to Sanaa, the capital, for vacation from the southern city of Sayoun when militants stopped their bus, checked IDs and led soldiers out of the bus.
Militants shot them to death near the ancient city of Shibam, in the southern province of Hadramawt, officials said. Witness Naser Mahfouz said bodies of the soldiers were beheaded. It was not possible to verify his account.
Officials said an initial investigation showed that Jalal Belaidi, al-Qaida field commander in Sayoun, orchestrated the attack. Belaidi is among Yemen’s most wanted al-Qaida militants and is accused of carrying out a series of attacks in the city, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.