SANAA, Yemen — Armed militants linked to al-Qaeda stormed a Yemeni military base in a restive southern province before dawn Monday, killing at least 20 soldiers and capturing more than two dozen others, according to Yemeni military officials. The assault occurred hours after a U.S. drone strike reportedly killed a top al-Qaeda figure involved in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.
The attack on the base was the latest indication of an intensifying conflict between U.S.-backed Yemeni security forces and al-Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate for control of southern Yemen. Over the past year, the militants have seized large swaths of territory in the south, taking advantage of political turmoil during Yemen’s populist revolution, which ousted longtime authoritarian ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Since President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi took office in February, officially ending Saleh’s rule, the militants have escalated their assaults, staging raids and suicide bombings. The government has responded with airstrikes, while the Obama administration has increased its use of drones to assassinate militants in the area.