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Death toll hits 185 soldiers in Al Qaeda attack on Yemeni military bases

The number of government troops killed by Al Qaeda militants in a weekend attack in southern Yemen has risen to 185, officials said. Soldiers' bodies were founded mutilated and some were headless.

Military officials say the death toll rose after more bodies were found in the desert outside the town of Zinjibar, capital of the southern province of Abyan. The Sunday attack left at least 32 militants dead. Officials said that there were scores of wounded from both sides.

Medical officials in the area confirmed the latest death toll and said some of the bodies of soldiers recovered had been mutilated. They said that bodies packed the military hospital morgue to which they were taken.

The death toll is believed to be the highest on record from battles fought by the army against Al Qaeda militants, who have been emboldened by the political turmoil roiling the impoverished Arab nation for more than a year and have seized control of Zinjibar and other areas in the south.

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

The militants' attack appeared to be Al Qaeda's response to a pledge by Yemen's newly inaugurated President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to fight the Yemeni branch of the terror network, believed to be the world's most active.

The scale of Sunday's attacks pointed to the combat readiness of the militants in Yemen, which the United States considers a key battleground in the war on Al Qaeda.