Qaeda suspects kill Yemen air force pilot

People gather outside the camp of the 19th Infantry Brigade after it was seized by al-Qaeda fighters on February 12, 2015 in Baihan, southern Yemen (AFP Photo/) (AFP)

Aden (AFP) - Al-Qaeda suspects shot dead a Yemeni military pilot in the south Friday, a day after militants launched a deadly attack on an army base and seized heavy weaponry, officials said.

"Gunmen on a motorbike opened fire at air force Colonel Mahmoud al-Naqib, killing him instantly," an official in the southern province of Lahij told AFP, adding that the assailants fled.

The attack was carried out by militants "suspected of belonging to Al-Qaeda," the official added.

Farther east on the border between the provinces of Marib and Shabwa, troops of the 119th Infantry Brigade which was attacked on Thursday by Al-Qaeda handed over their remaining arms to local tribes and withdrew from the area, local officials said.

Twelve soldiers and 15 militants were killed as Al-Qaeda seized the brigade's camp at Baihan in Shabwa province and captured armour and heavy weaponry, a military official said.

Another official said the jihadists took "30 tanks, 90 military vehicles, 25 armoured vehicles and 28 artillery pieces".

The militants later handed over the camp to tribes but kept the heavy weapons, officials said.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), considered by Washington as the jihadist network's most dangerous branch, has accused the troops of links with the Shiite militiamen ruling Sanaa.

AQAP frequently attacks both Yemeni security forces and Western targets.

Long on the front line of the war against Al-Qaeda, Yemen has descended into chaos since Shiite militiamen known as Huthis seized Sanaa in September and later ousted the government.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned on Thursday that Yemen was "collapsing before our eyes" as several countries shut their embassies in Sanaa and evacuated their staff.

Yemen's Sunni-dominated neighbour Saudi Arabia was the latest to evacuate staff from its Sanaa mission on Friday, citing a "deteriorating security and political situation".