Attack on government-aligned Security Belt Forces in southern Abyan province leaves 21 soldiers dead and seven wounded, says Interior Ministry.

SBF, a powerful southern Yemeni force, has played a decisive role in the fight against Al Qaeda, forcing them to retreat from towns into rural areas.
SBF, a powerful southern Yemeni force, has played a decisive role in the fight against Al Qaeda, forcing them to retreat from towns into rural areas. (Reuters Archive)

At least 21 soldiers have been killed in an attack by Al Qaeda in southern Yemen, according to the Interior Ministry.

The attack targeted a security checkpoint manned by the government-aligned Security Belt Forces (SBF) in Ahwar district in Abyan province, the ministry statement said on Tuesday.

Seven other soldiers were also wounded and eight militants killed in the attack.

SBF earlier said that the commander of the 1st Battalion, Yasser Shaye, was among the victims.

The violence came just days after Al Qaeda released a video of a United Nations worker whom it abducted in the same province more than six months ago.

READ MORE: Al Qaeda in Yemen releases video of kidnapped UN worker

Frequent attacks

Military headquarters in Abyan come under frequent attacks, usually attributed to Al Qaeda, which is active in the mountainous areas on the outskirts of Ahwar and Al Mahfad districts, east of the provincial capital Zinjibar.

The Yemeni army and SBF of the allied Southern Transitional Council (a UAE-backed group) share control of Abyan province.

The Security Belt, a powerful southern Yemen force, has played a decisive role in the fight against the militants, forcing them to retreat from towns into rural areas.

Yemen has been gripped by conflict since Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014, triggering a Saudi-led military intervention in support of the beleaguered government the following year.

READ MORE: Yemen claims several soldiers killed in Houthi rebel attack near Taiz

Source: TRTWorld and agencies