Yemeni officials say fierce as a result of fighting between government troops and al-Qaida militants in the country's south at least 78 soldiers and 20 militants have died.
Sunday's fighting erupted in Abyan province when the militants detonated several car bombs and overran a military post near Zinjibar. Officials say a military hospital was overwhelmed with dead and wounded troops.
The officials say the militants seized armored vehicles, artillery pieces, assault rifles and rockets from the army base they attacked. Some of the heavy weapons were later used against the soldiers.
Al-Qaida militants seized control of Zinjibar last May while the government was pre-occupied with cracking down on nationwide opposition protests against the autocratic rule of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Yemeni government forces have been trying to reclaim the town ever since.
Yemen has seen a surge in attacks blamed on al-Qaida since Saleh's deputy, Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi, took office as president last month. Hours after Hadi's February 25 inauguration, a suicide bombing killed 26 soldiers at a presidential palace in the the eastern province of Hadramawt.
Hadi has said that fighting al-Qaida and restoring security in the impoverished Arab nation are among his top priorities.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.
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