- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 25, 2012

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Gunmen on motorbikes shot dead two Yemeni army officers in the country’s capital Tuesday, and clashes between the military and tribal fighters loyal to al Qaeda in a northeastern province killed three soldiers and 11 tribesmen, officials said.

The violence came as al Qaeda’s offshoot in Yemen, which the United States considers the most dangerous branch of the terror network, released a new video message calling on Yemeni Muslims to join jihad, or holy war, against America.

The two army officers were gunned down in separate parts of the capital, Sanaa, security officials said. The two were identified as Col. Fadhl Mohammed Jaber, who was shot outside his home, and Col. Saleem al-Gharbani, who was killed near a Sanaa military facility.

Similar attacks have killed several senior Yemeni military and intelligence officials this year. The government has blamed al Qaeda, saying the militants are waging a retaliation campaign over a U.S.-backed military offensive last summer that managed to push militants out of strongholds in several southern towns.

Military officials said clashes between the army and a tribe affiliated with al Qaeda in the northeastern province of Marib had killed at least 11 tribesmen and three soldiers over the previous 24 hours. The officials said a tribal chief, supported by al Qaeda elements and disenchanted over money allegedly owed to him by the government, has been leading the attacks on the army.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

The province of Marib has seen a spate of clashes recently, mostly between the army and some tribesmen who maintain ties with al Qaeda. The tribesmen also have attacked oil pipelines and power stations in the province.

Two months ago, tribesmen blew up main electricity pylons and sabotaged an oil pipeline, protesting a death sentence against one of their members convicted of belonging to al Qaeda and killing security agents.

Some tribal chiefs also are suspected of being allied with former longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Their attacks appeared to be aimed at undermining the new government.

Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch, also known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, released a video denouncing the United States for what it described as aggressive political and social policies against Islam.

In the video, reported Tuesday by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant activities, three Yemeni al Qaida leaders — including deputy leader Said al-Shihri and military commander Qassim al-Rimi — urge Yemenis to join the jihad against an alleged American “occupation” of their country.

The video was produced by al Qaeda’s local media arm, the al-Malahem Foundation.

• Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this article.

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