Al-Qaeda gunmen opened fire on an army position in Yemen’s southeast Saturday, sparking a clash that killed two soldiers and four attackers, a military official told AFP.
The dawn clash in Hadramawt province lasted an hour and left three more soldiers wounded.
The assault comes two days after suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen briefly seized Sayun airport in Hadramawt in a deadly assault just as a civilian airliner was landing, before the airfield was retaken by the army.
The attack left eight soldiers, nine civilians and six jihadists dead.
Hadramawt’s rugged terrain provides hideouts for militants of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, considered by Washington as the jihadist network’s most dangerous affiliate.
Meanwhile, Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi said in a speech marking this weekend’s start of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, that his country is “fighting terrorism on behalf of the whole world” and that “our vast fight against terror will continue.”
The army launched a ground offensive against Al-Qaeda in late April in two southern provinces further west — Abyan and Shabwa.
The operation aims to expel the militants from smaller towns and villages in the two provinces that escaped a previous sweep in 2012.
It has “foiled the terrorists’ project to create a global training camp for them in Yemen,” state news agency Saba quoted Hadi as saying.
Taking advantage of a collapse of central authority during a 2011 uprising that forced veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, from power, Al-Qaeda seized swathes of the south and east.
Although government forces have captured several major towns, analysts say the army’s gains may have been the result of a tactical retreat by Al-Qaeda in coordination with Yemen’s powerful tribes.