Suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen killed 12 Yemeni soldiers and a civilian Thursday in a southern province where troops have been battling the militants since late April, a security official said.
The militants attacked a checkpoint near the Shabwa province village of Bayhan with automatic rifles, also wounding a number of soldiers, the official said, according to the AFP.
The army has been engaged in a major ground offensive against Al-Qaeda militants in Shabwa and neighbouring Abyan province in a bid to expel them from smaller towns and villages that escaped a previous sweep in 2012.
Troops have entered a series of towns but analysts say the advances could be the result of a tactical retreat by militants in coordination with local tribes.
The army has attempted to recruit its own militia allies among the tribes but has struggled to assert control over the countryside.
Al-Qaeda took advantage of the collapse of central authority during a 2011 uprising that forced veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh from power to seize large swathes of the south and east.
The militants remain deeply entrenched in Hadramawt province further east where they have carried out a series of spectacular attacks in recent months.