ADEN, Yemen, March 18 (Xinhua) -- At least three soldiers from the newly-recruited Yemeni troops backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were killed in an al-Qaida militants' ambush attack in southern Yemen on Sunday, a security official told Xinhua.
"The incident took place during a routine patrol in the Mudiyah district of Abyan province when al-Qaida gunmen attacked two military vehicles, resulting in a clash that left three soldiers killed and one injured," the security source said on condition of anonymity.
"The two military vehicles were completely burned during the exchange of fire with the attackers who used grenades," the security source said.
A resident near the scene confirmed to Xinhua that an explosion was heard, followed by heavy gunfire that lasted for several minutes in Mudiyah district.
The UAE-backed Yemeni troops in Abyan declared a search military operation to track suspected perpetrators hours after the ambush.
Al-Qaida militants are intensifying their drive-by attacks on security checkpoints in the Yemeni southern provinces as UAE-backed government forces increase military operations against their hideouts in the war-plagued Arab country.
During the past months, Yemeni government forces and the UAE armed forces operating in the southern province of Aden launched a new anti-terror offensive "to root out al-Qaida militants from their strongholds in neighboring southern province of Abyan."
Thousands of southern recruits joined the campaign after receiving military training and financial support from the UAE forces.
The UAE-backed anti-terror campaign has dislodged al-Qaida militants from several villages in Abyan and the neighboring southeastern province of Shabwa, with more than 50 of them arrested and moved to prisons in Aden.
The Yemen-based al-Qaida branch, seen by the United States as the global terror network's most dangerous branch, has exploited years of deadly conflict between Yemen's government and Houthi rebels to expand its presence, especially in Shabwa and Abyan provinces.