Seven Yemeni soldiers were killed in an attack the Defense Ministry blamed on al-Qaeda on Sunday, a day after clashes with Islamist fighters in which at least 20 troops were killed.
In a text message, the ministry’s September 26 news portal said the “treacherous terrorist attack” occurred in the southern Hadramout province reported Reuters.
The attack was the latest in a series that officials have blamed on an al-Qaeda-linked group that controls swathes of territory in southern Yemen.
The group, Ansar al-Sharia, on Saturday said it had killed about 30 Yemeni troops in an assault on a military checkpoint in the southern province of Abyan, one of several where it controls territory. The details of its claim could not be verified.
Officials put the toll on Saturday as 40 people having been killed in heavy fighting between the army and suspected Al-Qaeda militants in the southern province of Lahij.
“Twenty-eight soldiers were killed” in the fighting which erupted when the Islamist fighters attacked army positions in Mallah, a town in Lahij, an army officer on the ground told AFP.
An official in the Al-Qaeda stronghold of Jaar, southeast of Lahij, said 12 militants were also killed.
The attackers targeted the 119th and 201st army brigades, involved in military operations aimed at regaining control of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province southeast of Lahij, which the militants overran last May.
The group has escalated its attacks on the military since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office in February vowing to fight militants. A suicide attack at a military base killed 26 people hours after he was sworn in.
The Yemeni military launched several airstrikes in southern Yemen following the killing of some 110 soldiers in Abyan in early March, while U.S. government officials have confirmed that U.S. drones targeted suspected al-Qaeda fighters in recent days.
Hadi succeeded President Ali Abdullah Saleh, after a year of mass protests and military infighting. Hadi’s main task is to try to restore stability so that the militants have fewer opportunities to exploit central government weakness.
The army has been locked for months in deadly battles with Ansar al-Sharia who have exploited a central government weakened by a year of anti-regime protests to strengthen their grip.
They have launched deadly attacks against security forces, especially across south and southeast.
At the start of March, 185 soldiers were killed in a massive assault by sl-Qaeda militants on an army camp near Zinjibar.
The United States says the Yemen-based sl-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is the most active branch of the global terror network.
In the capital Sana’a, soldiers from the elite Republican Guard units commanded by Ahmed, the son of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, demonstrated outside the residence of President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, urging him to restructure the army.
Restructuring the army is one of several conditions set by a Gulf-brokered power transfer deal that saw Saleh cede power.
In addition to his son Ahmed heading the Republican Guard, his nephew Yehya commands central security services and another nephew, Tariq, controls the presidential guard.
And Saleh’s half-brother, General Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, still commands air force units, despite nationwide protests calling for his ouster.