SANA, Yemen — Suspected Al Qaeda suicide bombers disguised in military uniforms stormed into an army base in southern Yemen on Friday, killing 14 soldiers and wounding more than 20, Yemeni officials said.
The dawn assault on the coastal base in Abyan Province involved four suicide bombers in an army pick-up truck laden with explosives and a gunbattle with soldiers who were caught sleeping.
The attack highlights the increasingly brazen tactics used by militants in this impoverished Arab Peninsula country and the many challenges Yemen’s new leadership faces as it struggles, with US help, to route militants and bring security to the nation.
Washington considers Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni branch of the network is known, to be the group’s most dangerous offshoot, and holds it responsible for several failed attacks on US territory.
The Abyan attack came a day after suspected US drone strikes killed at least seven Al Qaeda-linked militants in the same area in the south.
It also followed a recent visit to Abyan by Yemen’s defense minister, General Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, which was meant to showcase the military’s strength in a province where the group last year was in control of entire cities and towns.
In June, Yemeni troops backed by US airpower and advisers drove Al Qaeda militants out of southern cities and into mountain refuges.
Earlier, the militants had seized large swaths of territory in Abyan during a security vacuum left by last year’s uprising against the country’s longtime authoritarian leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
They also seized thousands of firearms, as well as tanks and armored vehicles in raids on arms depots and barracks.