Yemen Al-Qaida Attack
Yemeni security forces keep watch at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the capital Sanaa MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

At least 11 Yemeni soldiers have been killed in an attack by al-Qaida militants at an army post southeast of the capital, Sanaa.

Five more soldiers were wounded as Islamist gunmen opened fire with machine guns at a checkpoint in the city of Bayhan in Shabwa province, local officials said.

Most of the soldiers were sleeping as the attack was launched. Gunmen fled the scene after setting two military vehicles on fire, Reuters reported.

Officials said the attackers were from al-Qaida's local branch, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) who have been behind a wave of attacks against the Yemeni government over the past few years.

The United States warned that AQAP are the most dangerous terrorist "franchise" on earth and has launched controversial drone attacks in Yemen.

Yemen has been in turmoil since 2011, when long-serving president Ali Abdullah Saleh was ousted in mass protests.

Besides al-Qaida Shia rebels and separatists in the south have been threatening Yemen's stability.

At least 120 people were recently killed in fighting between government troops and Zaidi Shia rebels in the northern Amran province.