Suspected al-Qaida militants on Tuesday attacked a security post in southern Yemen, sparking clashes that killed at least 21 troops and six militants, military officials said.
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 secessionist Southern Transitional Council.
The separatist council is backed by the United Arab Emirates and controls much of Yemen’s south. It is at odds with the internationally recognized government.
The armed group fighters are said to have used rocket-propelled grenades, light and medium weapons and military vehicles in the ambush on a security checkpoint in Ahwar district, Mohammed al-Naqib, the spokesman for Southern Transitional Council (STC) forces, told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday.
The officials said at least 21 troops were killed in the attack and the clashes that ensures for hours. Four more troops were also wounded, they said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Among the dead troops was Yasser Nasser Shaea, a senior commander in the force fighting terror groups in Yemen, the Security Belt said in a statement.
It said six militants were killed and others were detained. It shared images showing bodies claiming to be the dead militants.
No group has yet to claim responsibility for the ambush. But it bears resemblance to previous attacks by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP.
AQAP has long been considered the global network’s most dangerous branch, and has attempted to carry out attacks on the U.S. mainland.