'Qaeda' kills two Yemeni soldiers: military

A Yemeni soldier mans a checkpoint at an entrance in Sanaa leading to Amran province, on July 7, 2014 (AFP Photo/Mohammed Huwais)

Aden (AFP) - Suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen killed two Yemeni soldiers and wounded five Monday in the southern province of Abyan, a stronghold of the jihadists, a military official said.

The "Al-Qaeda militants" opened fire on a military vehicle as it headed to an army position outside the town of Mahfad, the official said.

He said a clash erupted between the assailants and the soldiers, and indicated that the attackers had suffered casualties, but without specifying.

The ambush comes a day after a similar attack in the same area killed six soldiers.

In late April, the army launched a ground offensive against Al-Qaeda in Abyan and nearby Shabwa province.

The operation aimed to expel militants of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula from smaller towns and villages in the two provinces that escaped a previous sweep in 2012.

AQAP is considered by Washington to be the most dangerous affiliate of the jihadist network for its role in failed attacks against the United States.

Taking advantage of a collapse of central authority during a 2011 uprising that forced veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh from power, AQAP seized swathes of south and east Yemen.

According to an AFP tally compiled from official and other sources, Yemeni security forces lost 374 personnel battling Al-Qaeda, northern rebels and southern separatists as well as in targeted assassinations during the first half of 2014.