Clashes that followed two simultaneous attacks by al-Qaeda suspects on army positions in Yemen's southern province of Shabwa killed 10 soldiers and 13 jihadists on Wednesday, the army said.
“The Yemeni air force is participating in the battles, bombing columns of al-Qaeda vehicles trying to advance towards Azzan,” the Shabwa city that the army said it retook on Thursday last week.
The military's losses included General Mohsen Saeed al-Ghazali, an aide to Yemen's defense minister who was killed in one of the two attacks in Azzan and neighboring Jul al-Rida, a military official said.
Wednesday's attack comes five days after the defense minister, Mohamed Nasser Ahmad, escaped unscathed along with two senior security officers when gunmen ambushed their convoy as they returned from the south.
The army says it has inflicted heavy losses on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), seen by the U.S. as the network's deadliest franchise, since it launched the offensive against them on April 29.
An army officer on the ground told AFP that troops on Wednesday "repelled two simultaneous attacks by al-Qaeda" on army positions in Azzan and Jul al-Rida, killing three attackers and wounding others.
The attacks sparked clashes between troops and jihadists in which eight soldiers were also wounded, the officer said.
Residents in the area said several cars and homes were damaged in the exchange of fire, and that many families in Azzan have been fleeing the city due to the violence.
The authorities in Sanaa have put security forces in the capital on alert for revenge attacks following the army's recapture of Azzan, with the United States also closing its embassy.
The interior ministry said this week that checkpoints were set up around the provinces of Sanaa, Ibb, Baida, Lahij and Marib to prevent the entry of jihadists fleeing the offensive focused on Shabwa and Abyan -- both in the south.