Aden: Al Qaida suspects on a motorbike shot dead an army officer on Thursday in Lahij province of southern Yemen, a security official said.

The gunmen opened fire at Major Bilal Karo near his home in Thalab town, “immediately killing him,” the source said, adding that the militants “suspected of belonging to Al Qaida” fled on their motorbike.

A medical source said Karo’s body was taken to Ibn Khaldoun hospital in the province.

Motorbikes in the impoverished country have become a tool for hit-and-run shootings which have killed dozens of officials in past years.

Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, branded by Washington as the network’s deadliest franchise, has been blamed for most such attacks, although it has never claimed them.

In December, Yemen enforced a temporary ban on motorbikes in Sana’a to prevent attacks during a key phase of a national dialogue.

Lahij province is home to Al Anad air base, where Yemeni officials have said Washington has deployed personnel to gather intelligence for its drone war on Al Qaida.

In late April, the Yemeni army launched a ground offensive against Al Qaida in Abyan and Shabwa provinces to the east.

The military says it has killed more than 500 militants, but the extremists are believed to have regrouped in the mountains and neighbouring provinces.