(CNN) -- Hours after an al Qaeda group issued threats of bloodshed, militants boldly stormed the Yemeni intelligence headquarters in the port city of Aden on Saturday, killing 11 people
Security sources told CNN Arabic that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was the primary suspect.
The group had issued a statement saying that it would "launch bloody attacks against government targets," said the sources, who did not want to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
The 10 attackers split into two groups, the sources said. One shot rockets at the intelligence building and forced their way inside; the other group attempted to free prisoners held there.
During the exchange of fire, seven security personnel, three women and a 7-year child were killed. The attackers escaped in a vehicle. It was unclear whether prisoners had been set free.
Yemen condemned the "heinous attack perpetrated by misguided terrorist elements" and said it intended to aggressively pursue the perpetrators and bring them to justice, the state news agency SABA reported.
It said that terrorism had "damaged the reputation of Yemen and harmed the national economy and the process of investment and tourism."
Washington began eyeing Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, as a possible new haven for al Qaeda as early as 2001, after the invasion of Afghanistan triggered by the group's attacks on New York and Washington.
A year before those attacks, al Qaeda bombed the destroyer USS Cole in a Yemeni port.
In December, the impoverished desert nation became the target of more scrutiny after U.S. officials said the suspect in the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit had trained at a camp in Yemen.