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5 soldiers, 8 militants killed in Yemen checkpoint attack

From Hakim Almasmari
April 14, 2012 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Government gained ground "when they used tanks and heavy artillery," witness says
  • Suspected al Qaeda militants use two vehicles to attack troops at a checkpoint in Aden
  • The attack occurs near the northern entrance of Aden, the business capital of Yemen
  • Government troops and militants exchange machine gun fire and heavy artillery

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) -- Five troops and eight militants were killed in Yemen's business capital of Aden when suspected al Qaeda militants attacked a security checkpoint Saturday, three security officials told CNN.

The attack occurred in al-Jawalah, near the northern entrance of Aden, a hotbed for militants. Officials in Aden said al Qaeda has been sending dozens of militants to the province and more attacks are expected on government forces.

The attack comes as al Qaeda attempts to take over areas in neighboring Lahj province, where it killed eight soldiers this week.

The 13 deaths occurred in a shootout after suspected al Qaeda militants using two vehicles attacked the troops stationed at the checkpoint.

The clash lasted 25 minutes, and government forces were able to destroy one of the vehicles used in the drive-by attack, said three security officials and the Defense Ministry. Machine guns and heavy artillery were used by both sides in the clash.

"Al-Qaeda suddenly attacked the checkpoint while troops were not prepared. The government only gained ground during the end of the clashes when they used tanks and heavy artillery," said Rami Rassas, a resident in the area who witnessed the attack.

Yemen's al Qaeda movement has expanded its control over parts of the country in the past year, leading politicians to consider the option of dialogue with the militant network.

The military committee, the country's highest security authority, has said the government will not allow al Qaeda to expand and will use an iron fist against the militants in the country's southern provinces.

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