ADEN, Yemen, June 18 (Xinhua) -- The Yemen-based al-Qaida branch has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the port city of Aden that killed the commander of Yemen's southern military region along with three of his bodyguards early Monday.
The suicide bombing was in revenge for the U.S.-led army offensive against the al-Qaida bastions in neighboring southern province of Abyan and the intensified air strikes on senior members of the terrorist group, the al-Qaida spokesperson told Xinhua in an exclusive phone interview.
"One of our Jihadists succeeded in assassinating Major General Salim Ali Qatan who had led a month-long offensive against our families and strongholds in Abyan," the spokesperson said anonymously.
"We were forced to flee our cities. We have not lost the war or defeated. Our war against crusaders will continue till we take full revenge," he added.
He also warned that more suicide attacks will follow if the intensified air strikes and military campaigns against the al- Qaida hideouts across the southern regions did not stop.
Earlier in the day, a police officer told Xinhua that the commander of Yemen's southern military region was killed in a suicide bombing that targeted his convoy in the southern port city of Aden.
The suicide bomber blew himself up at the convoy composed of high-ranking military officials, killing Maj. Gen. Salim Ali Qatan, commander of the southern military region, along with three of his bodyguards at Reemi neighborhood in Aden's Mansoura district, the local police officer said on condition of anonymity.
Several military officials have been assassinated in recent months, with government authorities blaming members of the Yemen- based al-Qaida branch.
The Yemeni government troops have waged an intensive military campaign last month, with the support of the United States and Yemen's oil-rich neighbor Saudi Arabia, to uproot the al-Qaida militants in the southern regions.
Last Tuesday, the Yemeni armed forces took control of Jaar and Zinjibar, two major al-Qaida strongholds in Abyan that had been under al-Qaida control for more than a year.
Yemen's al-Qaida wing, locally known as the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic Law), threatened to spread the fight and suicide attacks all over the country after it was routed from its main strongholds in Abyan.