Al-Qaeda militants set off an explosives-laden car inside an army base in southern Yemen at dawn on Friday, killing at least 15 soldiers and wounding 29 others, military officials said.
Eight Qaeda militants were also killed in the attack, military officials said.
The militants drove through several checkpoints before entering the base of the Yemeni army’s 115th brigade in Abyan province, where a drone raid killed at least seven Al-Qaeda members the day before, one official told AFP.
“Four members of Al-Qaeda with explosive belts… travelling in a military vehicle managed to pass through several army checkpoints to reach the camp” at Shaqra, 35 kilometres (22 miles) from the Abyan capital Zinjibar, another official said.
“Two soldiers were killed at the entrance of the base by the assailants who then continued their journey to the camp where three of the four occupants got out of their vehicle, while the driver blew himself up,” said the official.
In all 15 soldiers were killed and 29 others wounded.
The army killed the three militants who got out of the vehicle, including one who managed to escape briefly, officials said, adding that four other militants who stormed the base following the explosion were also killed.
A military official confirmed that eight militants, including the suicide bomber, were killed, according to Saba state news agency.
Army specialists later defused the explosive belts that were carried by the militants who were killed before they could set them off, it said.
The militants used a Yemen army vehicle which was part of equipment extremists seized last year when they overran towns in the province of Abyan before the areas were regained by authorities in an all-out offensive in May.
Friday’s attack came 24 hours after rockets fired from a drone near the southern city of Jaar killed at least seven suspected members of the terror network, including a local leader, an official in the restive region said.
Several military sources said the latest attack was in response to the raid.
Officials say Al-Qaeda militants have been trying to position themselves near Yemen’s main southern cities to carry out operations against the army and the Popular Resistance Committees comprising of local pro-army militias.
In May, the army launched an all out offensive against Al-Qaeda in Abyan province, forcing them to retreat from major strongholds including Jaar and Abyan’s capital Zinjibar.
The campaign was backed by US drones which in recent months have been deployed in strikes against Al-Qaeda targets in the south and east of the country.
An official said “several bodies” had been identified after Thursday’s drone strike, including that of Nader Al-Shadadi, Al-Qaeda’s leader in Jaar.
The drone strike was the second such since October 4 when two cars carrying suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen in the southern province of Shabwa were hit, killing five militants.
Al-Qaeda took advantage of the weakness of Yemen’s central government in an uprising last year against now ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, seizing large swathes of territory across the south.
But after the month-long offensive, most militants fled to the more lawless desert regions of the east.
Though weakened, the militants still launch hit-and-run attacks on government and civilian targets throughout the country.