A suspected militant attack early Tuesday in southern Yemen killed at least five troops loyal to a secessionist group, in the latest such assault blamed on an affiliate of al-Qaida, a military spokesman said.
The attack took place in Wadi Omran in Abyan province and also wounded four troops from the Southern Armed Forces, which is loyal to the secessionist Southern Transitional Council, spokesman Mohammed al-Naqib said in a statement.
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.
Al-Naqib said suspected militants attacked their forces using mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. He said their forces were chasing the assailants, who fled to a mountainous area between Abyan and neighboring Bayda province.
No group claimed responsibility for the ambush. But it bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. The militant group is seen as one of the more dangerous branches of the terror network.
Last month, suspected AQAP militants clashed with forces of the secessionist council in the province of Shabwa. At least two troops and one militant were killed.
AQAP is active in several regions in Yemen, exploiting the country’s yearslong conflict to cement its presence in the improvised nation.
Yemen’s ruinous civil war began in 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital of Sanaa and much of northern Yemen and forced the government into exile.
A Saudi-led coalition including the UAE intervened the next year to try to restore the internationally recognized government to power.