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Yemen hotel serving alcohol attacked; 2 dead

SANAA, Yemen - Islamic militants stormed a hotel where alcohol is served in a southern Yemeni city on Wednesday, setting the building on fire, killing two people and wounding 20.

The brazen attack illustrated how the militants, including Yemen's dangerous al Qaeda branch, have gained strength and are showing increased boldness in southern Yemen.

The militants have taken advantage of a security vacuum resulting from nearly a year of internal political turmoil over demands that President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down. His agreement to a power transfer plan has not quelled the unrest.

The hotel became a target for the militants because Muslims are forbidden from drinking alcohol.

A hotel guest said about five masked gunmen stormed the hotel in the morning, shooting in all directions. Then they poured fuel on the hotel's carpets and set them on fire. The guest spoke on condition of anonymity fearing militants' reprisal.

Nabil Mohammed Youssef, who lives near the hotel in Aden, said many hotel guests jumped from their rooms on the second and third floors, while others made their escape using bed sheets tied together.

Three years ago, Islamic militants attacked and set fire to a social club of the Ethiopian community in Aden because it served alcohol. No one was hurt in that incident. They also attacked and damaged several shops that sold music videos.