12 die as Yemen army post attacked
The early morning attack took place in the Beehan area in the province of Shabwa, the officials said but provided no other details. Five soldiers were also wounded in the attack, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.
The United States considers Yemen's al Qaida branch - known as al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula - to be the most dangerous affiliate of the global terror network, following a number of attempted attacks on the US homeland that were linked to the Yemen-based group.
The group overran large swathes of territory in southern Yemen in 2011 during an Arab Spring-inspired uprising, but the military has pushed back, and over the past few weeks security forces have stepped up an offensive to drive militants from their strongholds.
Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Saeed al-Faqeeh said today that troops have killed 500 al Qaida militants and captured another 37 in fighting since late April in the provinces of Shabwa and Abyan, both considered al Qaida strongholds.
At least 40 soldiers were killed and some 100 were wounded over the same period, said the spokesman. That is not counting Thursday's casualties.
The US, which trains Yemen's counterterrorism forces, has launched more than 100 drone strikes against suspected al Qaida targets in the impoverished country since 2002, according to the New America Foundation, a non-partisan public policy institute.
Today, Yemen's top security body, the Supreme Security Committee, announced that an al Qaida terror cell has been uncovered, implicated in scores of assassinations, killings of diplomats, attacks on security forces and kidnappings, including of foreigners.
The committee said the cell was led by Saleh al-Tays who was killed last month in the US-backed military offensive in the south and who was on the list of Yemen's 25 most wanted terrorists.
Eighteen members of the cell have been arrested, and an unspecified amount of weapons and equipment was confiscated, the committee said.
The cell was behind an assassination attempt on Yemen's defence minister last month and the kidnapping of three foreigners who were released after a million dollar ransom was paid.
It was also implicated in an attempted abduction of foreigners inside a Sanaa barber shop in April, the committee said, a reference to an incident in which two attackers failed to abduct two US Embassy officers.