File Photo - Yemeni military forces have retaken a major military facility and surrounding mountains from Al-Qaeda in the southern province of Abyan. AFP
Commander Abd Al-Latif al-Sayyid and the three soldiers from the Security Belt Forces, a fighting group loyal to Yemen's Southern Transitional Council, were killed in an explosion while travelling in a convoy through southern Abyan province, the three officials and witnesses said.
The four said they believed the Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula group was responsible for the attack but provided no further details. All spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal.
The Southern Transitional Council is at odds with the internationally recognized Yemeni government and has repeatedly called for the South Arabian country to be split into two like it was between 1967 and 1990.
AQAP has not claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack but is active in Abyan province and regularly carries out ambushes against Yemeni forces. AQAP is seen as one of the more dangerous branches of the terror network.
Earlier this month, security officials told the AP that AQAP militants killed five troops from the Southern Armed Forces, a large force loyal to the Southern Transitional Council.
Last month, suspected AQAP militants clashed with forces of the secessionist council in the province of Shabwa. At least two troops and one militant were killed.
Yemen’s ruinous civil war began in 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital of Sanaa and much of northern Yemen and forced the government into exile. A Saudi-led coalition including the UAE intervened the next year to try to restore the internationally recognized government to power.