Eleven people including top officers have been killed in fierce clashes between Yemen's army and suspected Al-Qaeda militants in the country's restive south, military and local officials said on Saturday.
"Al-Qaeda elements stationed in Dofas (Abyan province) attacked army units there using machine guns on Friday, killing two officers and four soldiers, and wounding nine others," a military official in the village told AFP.
The official identified the dead officers as Colonel Mohammed al-Salahi and Colonel Hilal Shamsan.
Medics at a military hospital in the strategic southern port city of Aden confirmed the toll.
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A local official in Dofas, 15 kilometres (nine miles) south of Abyan's provincial capital of Zinjibar, said that five members of the extremist network were also killed during the attack and four more were wounded.
Militants belonging to the "Partisans of Sharia" (Islamic law), which is suspected of links to Al-Qaeda, took over much of Zinjibar in May. Thousands of residents have since been displaced by fighting there.
Deputy Information Minister Abdo al-Janadi said last week that the United States had provided logistical support to the Yemen military's 25th Mechanised Brigade, which was until recently besieged by the militants in Zinjibar.
US commanders have repeatedly expressed concern that the jihadists have been taking advantage of a protracted power vacuum in Sanaa to expand their operations.
Since January, protesters have been demanding the ouster of veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in hospital in Saudi Arabia since early June being treated for wounds sustained in a blast at his palace.