ADEN, Yemen, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- Gunmen suspected of belonging to the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch opened fire randomly at a military checkpoint of the UAE-backed Yemeni troops in Abyan province on Tuesday, a security official told Xinhua.
The al-Qaida assailants opened fire from automatic machines and hurled grenades on a checkpoint manned by the UAE-backed Yemeni troops in the district of Ahwar of Abyan province, leaving three soldiers killed, the local security source said on condition of anonymity.
The troops positioned in the area engaged in a short armed confrontation with the al-Qaida gunmen after the surprise attack, the security source added.
A few days ago, hundreds of elite counter-terrorism forces recently trained by the United Arab Emirates were deployed in different areas of Abyan province in an attempt to storm al-Qaida hideouts.
Sources from the Aden-based 4th Military Region confirmed to Xinhua that the Yemeni troops backed by armored UAE vehicles arrived in Abyan and started anti-terror operations that resulted in arresting a number of terrorists there.
On Saturday, a prominent leader of the al-Qaida group named as Khalid Abdulnabi voluntarily turned himself in to the emergency security forces in the neighboring southern province of Lahj.
Abdulnabi who was later transferred to the central prison in Aden is wanted by the Yemeni and American intelligence authorities. He also participated in terrorist activities in Afghanistan along with former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
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, has claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist attacks against Yemen's army and governmental institutions.
The AQAP and the IS-linked militants 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.