SANA, Yemen -- In the latest attack by suspected Al Qaeda militants in a former stronghold, an explosives-laden vehicle blew up inside a military base in southern Yemen on Friday, killing an estimated 12 soldiers and injuring more than a dozen others, military and security officials said.
Ranking military officers were believed to be among the dead in the blast in Abyan province, and the camp's commander was among the injured, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the attack.
Yemen has for months been roiled by violence blamed on Al Qaeda militants and secessionist movements, which has shaken its fragile government.
The suicide car-bombing, using an apparently stolen military vehicle, set off a fierce firefight between troops and dozens of attackers, lasting for more than an hour.
A military official said the vehicle's driver managed to gain entry to the camp by claiming to be transporting a wounded soldier. Under that subterfuge, he was able to get close to the main building housing the camp's commander, Gen. Mohammed Hussain Bokheti, before setting off a powerful blast.
Six of the general's staff were reported killed and 16 injured.
Friday's attack came a day after a strike by militants in the nearby southwestern province of Al Baydha left at least two soldiers dead. The assailants managed to seize weapons and vehicles in that attack.
Al Qaeda-linked militants appeared to be seeking to reestablish the effective control they had in Abyan province in 2011, said Abderrzaq Jmal, a freelance journalist and researcher who specializes in Islamic groups operating in the area.
Militants have declared that higher-ranking military officials, not foot soldiers, are their intended targets, Jmal said. As a result, they have sometimes been able to obtain inside cooperation when staging attacks, sometimes passing through checkpoints unchallenged.
Recent attacks have specifically taken aim at intelligence officers, including one who was killed Friday in Hadhramout, in eastern Yemen, by men on motorbikes.
Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi is accused by the militants of complicity with the United States, which has carried out an extensive campaign of drone strike against Al Qaeda suspects.
After former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced out of power last year as part of the regional revolts known collectively as the Arab Spring, Hadi presided over a wide-ranging offensive against Al Qaeda-linked groups that had become entrenched in the south. The government reestablished tenuous control, but the militants are woven into the social fabric and have been able to regroup.