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Yemeni Defence Minister Major General Mohammad Nasir Ahmad (second left) visiting a wounded soldier at a hospital following a suspected Al Qaeda attack, in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, yesterday.
ADEN: Al Qaeda killed 16 soldiers in an attack on an army base in south Yemen yesterday, medical and military sources said, in a further show of strength by Islamist militants despite a US campaign of drone strikes to neutralise them.
Militants tightened their hold on parts of Yemen during an uprising that ousted veteran president Ali Abdullah Saleh in February, raising concern for the security of top oil exporter Saudi Arabia next door and nearby shipping lanes.
Violence has intensified in the past few weeks with Washington stepping up drone, or pilotless aircraft, operations and militants carrying out retaliatory attacks on state and military targets.
Two militants disguised in army uniforms drove an explosives-laden car into the military base in Shuqra, a town in the southern province of Abyan, and detonated them inside, a military official said. Moments later, other militants assaulted the base from the sea and a fierce battle ensued.
At least 16 soldiers and 8 militants were killed, according to medical and military sources. An initial death toll that counted 13 militants as dead was revised down to eight after five of those killed were identified as uninvolved civilians.
“The two suicide bombers were wearing army uniforms, and even their car had a military numberplate, so they didn’t raise any suspicion,” a wounded Yemeni soldier said by telephone from hospital.