Sanaa: Four Yemeni soldiers were killed on Tuesday when a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle laden with explosives near a checkpoint in the south of the country, a police source said, the latest in a spate of attacks by Islamist militants.
At least four soldiers were wounded in the attack outside the southern city of al-Bayda, the police source said. The governor of al-Bayda province said clashes between the army and "terrorists" erupted in the wake of the explosion.
"The attacker who drove the car made it explode when it stopped at a checkpoint," the source said.
"It scattered into tiny pieces, killing four soldiers instantly. Four others were taken to the hospital with critical wounds."
Islamist militants have escalated their operations in the south of the country since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office last month vowing to fight al Qaeda`s Yemen-based arm.
Air strikes attributed to both Yemen and the United States have killed more than 60 militants over the past week, tribal sources and local officials say. Washington has repeatedly used drones to target militants in Yemen.
No one claimed responsibility for Tuesday`s attack but a security source blamed militants linked to al Qaeda.
Anti-government protests that paralyzed the impoverished nation for most of 2011 have severely weakened central government control over the country, particularly in the south, where militants have seized several towns.
In their deadliest attack, militants earlier this month killed at least 110 soldiers in attacks on government forces outside Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province, in a bleak reminder of the challenges Hadi faces as president.
Wary of al Qaeda`s presence in Yemen, Washington backed Hadi`s election last month under an Arab Gulf-brokered deal to ease his predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh from power after a year of political upheaval.
The United States equipped and trained Yemeni military units - notably ones led by Saleh`s son and nephew - for "counter-terrorism", though both sides say military cooperation fell off during turmoil surrounding mass anti-Saleh protests.