Suspected Al Qaeda militants on Tuesday attacked a security post in Southern Yemen, sparking clashes that killed at least 21 Yemeni troops and wounded seven others, the Yemeni Interior Ministry said.
It is thought to be the latest attack in recent weeks by the local branch of the global terror group.
Eight militants were killed in the clashes, the ministry added, in a statement carried by Saba news agency.
The early morning attack in Ahwar, in the province of Abyan, targeted a post manned by troops from the Security Belt, a security force loyal to the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC).
“Dozens of [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] militants headed from Wadi Maseb in eastern Abyan driving Landcruiser 4WD cars and clashed with soldiers at the outpost using light and medium weapons,” a security official in the Abyan Security Belt Forces of the STC told The National after the fighting was over.
The source added that one militant was captured but dozens fled the scene.
The STCwants a separate state of Southern Yemen or a greater role in the internationally recognised government. The country was divided into North and South Yemen until 1990.
The attack came only days after STC forces launched a large-scale military operation against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and militant groups in Abyan province.
On Monday, two soldiers from the pro-government Shabwa Defence Forces, a recently established group to secure the province, were killed and three others were injured. This happened when suspected Al Qaeda gunmen ambushed their vehicle in the oil-rich district’s north-west, a local security source told The National.
The attack took place less than a week after Cap Abu Baker Al Daywali, a commander in the Shabwa Defence Forces, was assassinated by gunmen alongside his bodyguard as they crossed Nisab district in Shabwa province.
Yemen has been gripped by conflict since Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014. This triggered a Saudi-led military intervention in support of the beleaguered government the following year.
AQAP and militants loyal to ISIS have thrived in the chaos.
The fighting comes as the Houthis and forces supporting the ousted government observe a shaky ceasefire in the years-long civil war.