SANAA/ADEN, April 8 (Xinhua) -- A senior Yemeni intelligence officer was killed by al-Qaida gunmen in the southern province of Taiz on Sunday, a provincial official said.
"Colonel Ismail Bawli of the political security organization ( intelligence) was shot dead inside his car by two gunmen on a motorbike in Sainah area in Taiz," the official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Bawli was ambushed by unidentified gunmen riding a motorbike while he was on his way home from the military intelligence headquarters in the Sainah area in downtown Taiz city, he said.
Later in the day, a spokesman of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) told Xinhua by phone that "the colonel was killed by two fighters of al-Qaida network." He declined to provide further information, but said "intelligence personnel are on our assassination list."
The incident was the second of its kind in Taiz in less than a month after the AQAP claimed responsibility for murdering a U.S. English-language teacher. People affiliated with Yemeni intelligence services and U.S. nationals working in Yemen are frequently targeted by the AQAP.
The activities of the resurgent terrorist group, which exploited security vacuum in Yemen, challenged newly-elected President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who said fighting the AQAP tops his daily agenda.
Earlier in the day, Yemeni-U.S. joint air raids bombed al-Qaida hideouts in the southern province of Abyan, killing at least 16 militants, the defense ministry said on its website.
The warplanes also launched another strike on al-Qaida targets in neighboring province of Shabwa, killing up to eight militants. However, the terrorist group denied anyone of its fighters were killed in the Shabwa air raid, in an e-mail statement.
U.S. drones and Yemeni warplanes have regularly targeted the AQAP in southern Yemeni regions, which were seized by the group in May 2011 following a surge of violence, killing and injuring scores of terrorists.