Al Mukalla: Suspected Al Qaida militants on Sunday attacked a Yemen army checkpoint in the southern province of Abyan, killing five soldiers and a civilian, military officials said.

“The soldiers were having their dinner in Al Arqoub region, Shogra district, when the masked men opened fire from machine guns.” a local official told Gulf News by telephone.

A man who was passing through the checkpoint was killed and the assailants ran away quickly.

The official said that attack bears the hallmarks of Al Qaida terrorists who have stepped up their campaign against army facilities in Abyan province after massive US air strikes on their gatherings and hideouts. On Saturday night, two Al Qaida terrorists riding a motorcycle were killed in a US drone strike.

Al Qaida, which has taken advantage of power vacuum during the war against Iran-backed Al Houthi rebels, suffered a major blow last year when thousands of UAE trained forces expelled them from main cities in the south including Al Mukalla, Houta and some districts in the port city of Aden.

Meanwhile, Yemen Vice-President Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar vowed on Sunday to intensify military operations against Al Houthis and forces loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

“Lt. Gen. Al Ahamr held a meeting with senior army commanders in Marib and discussed current military operations against Al Houthis,” Major Mohsen Khasrouf, the chief of Yemen’s Armed Forces Moral Guidance Department, told Gulf News.

In Sanaa’s Nehim district, fighting raged on Sunday between government forces and Al Houthis under intensive air raids from Saudi-led fighter jets.

Major Khasrouf said Al Houthi fighters launched the attacks to recapture some hilltop positions from government forces.

The attacks were largely repelled by government forces, he confirmed.

Despite intensive air support by coalition’s jet fighters, government forces have achieved limited advances in the rugged Nehim district.

Clashes also broke out in areas close to the Red Sea City port town of Mokha as government forces pushed to make major headway towards Hodeida city.