SANAA, Yemen – Taking advantage of heavy fog, Al Qaeda militants launched coordinated attacks on Yemeni military barracks in a southern province on Friday, killing at least 38 troops and wounded dozens, a military official said.
The dawn attacks in Shabwa province, a known Al Qaeda stronghold, surprised and caught the soldiers unprepared, said Maj. Mohammed Nasser.
Yemeni authorities have been leading a war against Al Qaeda's local branch, also known as the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, considered by Washington as one of the world's most dangerous terror groups.
In Friday's attacks, the militants first tried to storm barracks in three military encampments, in Maysaa, Kamp and al-Ain areas, Nasser told The Associated Press.
At the Kamp site, the militants first overpowered the guards outside the barracks, then rammed a suicide car bomb into the camp. Most of the casualties among the troops took place in this attack.
By mid-morning, heavy clashes were still underway near the third location, the al-Ain military encampment, where militants had detonated a car bomb outside the barracks.
Nasser said eight militants had also died in the fighting so far and that six soldiers and five military vehicles had been seized by the attackers.
Most of the soldiers from the Kamp barracks were in charge of guarding oil wells in the area.
The attacks in Shabwa came just days after Yemeni authorities warned of more Al Qaeda attacks and suicide bombings.
The terror offshoot in Yemen has been behind a series of attacks on the military, as well as assassinations of security officers and government officials.
Al Qaeda-linked militants took advantage of the political unrest following the 2011 uprising against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, to reinforce their presence in the country's mostly lawless south and step up attacks.