- Suspected Islamic raiders kill at least eight soldiers in Yemen, government officials say
- Ansar al-Sharia claims 15 soldiers are killed in the Tuesday raid
- Government officials say troops killed five militants while repelling the raid
(CNN) -- At least eight soldiers died and five others were injured when suspected Islamist militants attacked a military post in Yemen's eastern Mareb province early Tuesday, three security officials and a Defense Ministry official told CNN.
A commander at the Mareb security post said militants armed with machine guns and grenades, riding in four Toyota pick-up trucks, attacked the soldiers in the al-Shabkar area. He said militants fled to neighboring Jawf province after a 40-minute clash.
Ansar al-Sharia, an offshoot of al Qaeda that currently controls the southern Abyan province, announced responsibility for the attack in a statement. The group said 15 Yemeni troops and one of its fighters died. It also said it had captured some armored vehicles during the raid.
A Defense Ministry official said five militants were killed when troops tried to repel the attack.
"The Mareb incident is a part of a series of unexpected attacks against government forces. Such attacks are much more complicated and deadly," the official told CNN on condition of anonymity.
"Mareb is a hotbed for al Qaeda and the new government will try to cleanse the province from their existence," the official said.
Residents said the militants took the bodies of their victims and buried them.
The attack comes as the army intensifies the war on al Qaeda in Abyan. At least 20 militants were killed when troops and citizen fighters repelled a fierce attack to occupy the Loder district of the province Monday, authorities said.
Yemen's new president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, has vowed to fight al Qaeda and called on the country's citizens for help.