Suspected al-Qaeda gunmen stormed and briefly seized an airport in Yemen's southeastern Hadramawt province yesterday, just as a civilian airliner was landing, officials said.
Three soldiers were killed in the attack on Sayun airport, while another five died in a simultaneous suicide bombing at a nearby military headquarters.
Troops retook the airport, killing six militants and freeing hostages seized from the control tower, a security official said. Four militants were captured, and others fled.
Attackers gunned down the three soldiers at the entrance to the airport, which is also used by the air force, before capturing parts of the facility, including the control tower, an official said.
The assault took place as a Yemen Airways plane landed, a military official said.
Troops scrambled armoured vehicles to confront the militants and evacuate the flight's passengers in army buses through the northern gate of the airport, the official said.
Hadramawt's rugged terrain provides hideouts for militants of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, considered by Washington as the jihadist network's most dangerous affiliate. On May 24, militants launched a massive pre-dawn assault on Sayun, in which they attacked police and army bases and public buildings with suicide bombers, rocket-launchers and heavy machine guns.
Scores of militants and 15 soldiers and police were killed.
President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi had ordered security forces on high alert nationwide after the army launched a ground offensive against al-Qaeda in late April in two southern provinces further west - Abyan and Shabwa.
Hadi has vowed to press the offensive until the jihadists are eradicated from all of Yemen's territory.