ADEN, Yemen, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- About 10 pro-government soldiers were killed and nearly 20 others injured when suspected al-Qaida suicide bombing targeted a police center in Yemen's southern province of Abyan on Friday, a security official told Xinhua.
The security source based in Abyan said on condition of anonymity that suspected al-Qaida gunmen launched an armed attack on the main gate of the police center in Zinjibar city, Abyan's provincial capital, sparking a short clash in the area.
A few minutes later, a suspected al-Qaida suicide bomber slammed his explosives-laden car into the guards stationed around the police center, killing about 10 soldiers and injuring 20 others, the source said.
Residents told Xinhua that the explosion was very huge and some nearby residential buildings were partially damaged.
Ambulances rushed to the scene to rescue the injured soldiers to get treatment at public hospitals in the neighboring southern province of Aden.
Earlier this month, the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch deployed scores of its well-armed fighters across three southern towns in the country's troubled war-torn province of Abyan.
The UAE-backed Yemeni security forces withdrew from Abyan's towns after receiving several ambushes and repeated armed attacks by al-Qaida gunmen and failed to secure the province.
Yemen's internationally recognized government that has based itself in the port city of Aden, 45 km away from Abyan, gave orders to some military units to kick al-Qaida militants out of the southern regions urgently.
The province of Abyan is strategically important due to its proximity to the port city of Aden, which houses ministers of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government after the capital Sanaa was militarily occupied by the Shiite Houthi group in September 2014.
Yemen, an impoverished Arab country, has been gripped by one of the most active regional Al-Qaida insurgencies in the Middle East.
The Yemen-based Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), also known locally as "Ansar al-Sharia," emerged in January 2009, claiming responsibility for a number of terrorist attacks against Yemen's army and governmental institutions.
The AQAP and the IS-linked terrorists took advantage of the security vacuum and ongoing civil war to expand their influence and seize more territories in southern Yemen.
Security in Yemen has deteriorated since March 2015, when war broke out between the Shiite Houthi group, supported by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and government forces backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition.
Over 10,000 people have been killed in ground battles and airstrikes since then, many of them civilians.