At least six Yemeni troops and around 20 militant attackers were killed on Wednesday in an assault on a military base near the international airport of Yemen’s southern city of Aden, security sources said.
Troops surrounded the headquarters building where between 15 and 20 of the attackers were believed to be holed up, triggering heavy exchanges of fire through the morning, one military source said.
The assailants, who were wearing military uniforms, stormed the Solaban base after setting off one car bomb at its entrance then ramming through a second and detonating it inside, another military source said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but ISIS carried out a similar large-scale attack in the southern port of Mukalla on June 27.
A wave of bombings took place in recent days in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bangladesh and Iraq. The attacks have apparently been carried out by ISIS.
The surge in violence coincided with the last days of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan when Muslims fast from dawn until dusk. Wednesday marked the beginning of Eid al-Fitr, a major religious festival.
In the past year, Islamist militants in Yemen have siezed territory and freedom to operate due to a ravaging civil war between government forces against Iran-allied Houthi rebels. The Houthis control the capital, Sanaa.
Both Al Qaeda and ISIS operate in Yemen. The groups consider government forces and the Houthis as enemies, but are otherwise ideological rivals and compete for recruits.
Al Qaeda has used the security vacuum to seize control over swathes of southern and eastern Yemen. ISIS has launched several attacks on security forces.
Last month, CIA director John Brennan told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Al-Qaeda had several thousand “adherents and fighters” in Yemen while there are also “several hundred” fighters loyal to ISIS.
Three coordinated ISIS bomb attacks on government troops killed 38 people in Mukalla on June 27 as they were preparing to break their Ramadan fast.
In a separate incident on Tuesday night, a Katyusha rocket barrage launched by Houthi forces on the outskirts of the central city of Marib killed seven children between the ages of five and nine, local officials said.
A shaky ceasefire that began nearly three months ago has paused a civil war which started when the Houthis pushed the government into exile in March 2015. But clashes regularly flare on various battlefronts throughout Yemen.
The conflict has killed over 6,400 people – around half of them civilians, according to the United Nations – and plunged the impoverished country into a humanitarian crisis.