Four Yemeni soldiers and five suspected Al-Qaeda militants were killed in two separate attacks Friday in southern restive regions, military and local sources said.
In the first attack, a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into an army position in Mahfad, in Abyan province, a military official said.
“He was a suicide bomber from Al-Qaeda,” said the official, who asked not to be named. He said six soldiers were also wounded in the attack.
A medical source at Ataq public hospital confirmed the deaths.
Meanwhile, a drone strike killed five suspected Al-Qaeda militants at Saeed junction, east of the city of Ataq, in nearby Shabwa province, a local source said.
The pilotless aircraft fired a missile at the group as they were gathered under a tree, the source said.
The United States is the only country operating drones over Yemen, but US officials rarely acknowledge the covert programme.
On Thursday, the Yemeni army killed four “Al-Qaeda members” in an attack in Habban, also in Shabwa, the defence ministry said.
The army launched an all-out offensive against Al-Qaeda in Shabwa and neighbouring Abyan in a bid to expel its forces from smaller towns and villages that escaped a previous sweep in 2012.
It said 500 Al-Qaeda militants were killed in the operation, while 40 soldiers were killed and 100 others wounded
Troops and militia have entered a series of towns, but analysts say their advances could be the result of a tactical retreat by the militants in coordination with local tribes.
Taking advantage of a collapse of central authority during a 2011 uprising that forced veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh from power, Al-Qaeda seized large swathes of the south and east.
They remain deeply entrenched in Hadramawt province further east, where they have carried out a series of spectacular attacks in recent months.