Reuters International

DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's branch in Yemen claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing last week that killed eight people and wounded a senior army commander in the eastern part of the country in an internet posting on Tuesday.

Khaled Batarfi, an al Qaeda leader who was freed from prison last year when Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) seized Mukalla, also criticised the United Arab Emirates over its role in freeing the Hadramout provincial capital from the militants.

General Abdul-Rahman al-Halili, commander of Yemen's First Military Region which has its headquarters in the city of Seyoun, was wounded last week when a suicide bomber targeted his convoy while he was on a trip to inspect his forces in the Wad Hadramout area.

Batarfi, speaking in an audio recording about a campaign that forced al Qaeda from Mukalla last month, said his group had chosen "to fight the enemy as we want, not as he wants".

"As such, God has facilitated for us to target the commander of the First Military Region in Hadramout and to target Zubaidi and Shalal in Aden," Batarfi said.

He was referring to a previous attack on May 1 on the governor of neighbouring Aden province, Aydarous al-Zubaidi, and the provincial security chief, Shelal Ali Shayyeh.

No one had claimed responsibility for either of these two attacks.

AQAP and its militant rival, Islamic State, had exploited the Yemen war to expand their control and enlist new recruits in a campaign that drew concern in the United States and in the Saudi-led Arab alliance that had been trying to shore-up President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi against his Iran-allied Houthi enemies.

Concern about militant threats has spurred U.N.-sponsored peace talks between the Houthis and Hadi's government now underway in Kuwait.

The talks are aimed at an agreement that would allow the Houthis and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to evacuate cities they control in northern Yemen and for the formation of a new, more representative government.

Batarfi accused the United States of trying to impose a "new reality" in Yemen.

(Reporting by Mostafa Hashem, writing by Sami Aboudi,; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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