At least five Yemeni soldiers have been killed during an exchange of fire with suspected al-Qaeda militants in the Arab country’s southern province of Abyan.
A Yemeni military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said government forces managed to thwart a terrorist attack after a brief gun battle with the assailants on Monday.
He added that two suspected al-Qaeda gunmen were killed during the firefight.
Earlier this month, a leader of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement was shot dead by suspected al-Qaeda gunmen in the capital, Sana’a.
The attackers, who were riding a motorbike, opened fire on Mohammad Mutahhar al-Shami, chairman of the Medical Revolutionary Committee at the Military Hospital, killing him on the spot.
Another person who was accompanying Shami was also killed in the attack.
Over the past months, al-Qaeda militants have been engaged in battle with the Shia Ansarullah fighters. The militants have also frequently carried out attacks on Yemen’s security forces.
The central government has so far failed to deal with the terrorist threat.
Ansarullah fighters, who played a major role in ousting Yemen’s former dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, have intervened to fill the vacuum and have driven al-Qaeda militants out of many areas in the country.
Ali al-Emad, an Ansarullah leader, recently said that Saudi Arabia backs armed al-Qaeda extremists in order to control oil and service centers in the Yemeni provinces of Marib and Hadhramaut.
He added that Riyadh seeks to prevent changes in Yemen in fear of their possible impact on the ongoing policies pertaining to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.