Suspected al Qaeda militant kills senior Yemeni army officer - ministry

ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - A senior Yemeni army officer was shot dead on Sunday by an unidentified gunman in the southeastern province of Shabwa, Yemen's Defence Ministry said, in the latest attack on military personnel that authorities blame on al Qaeda. The ministry said on its news website that Colonel Hamoud Hussein al-Dharhani was shot dead outside his house in the city of Ataq. Shabwa served as a stronghold of al Qaeda and other Islamist militants in recent years, who used the province's rough desert terrain to set up hide-outs and training camps. The ministry said the authorities were investigating the attack. Yemeni authorities blame al Qaeda for the killings of between 200 and 350 senior army officers in Yemen in the past three years. Last week, an intelligence officer identified as Colonel Nasser Ahmed was shot dead while driving in the southern city of al-Bayda, while a general escaped a bomb attack on a road his convoy was travelling on near the city of al-Qatan in eastern Hadramout province. Yemen has been in turmoil since 2011 pro-democracy protests forced long-ruling President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. (Reporting by Mohamed Mokhashaf; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by William Maclean and Raissa Kasolowsky)