Military officials said that the militants seized armored vehicles, artillery pieces, assault rifles, and rockets from the base's stores and turned them on the soldiers, causing most of the casualties. A Defense Ministry statement on Sunday said the fighting began when militants detonated "booby trapped vehicles" at an Army base in the region of Koud, near Zinjibar. The Associated Press reports that the wording of the statement suggested the base had been occupied by the militants before Army forces regrouped and took it back.
Zinjibar and Jaar were both abandoned by Yemeni forces over the past year amid the tumult around Mr. Saleh's government. Some of the soldiers were called to the capital, Sanaa, to bolster the government, while others left their posts.
The attacks on the military bases were just part of an uptick in activity for Al Qaeda, which also claimed to have killed a CIA officer in the southern province of Aden, reports Reuters. Journalists in Yemen received a text message on Friday saying that "The mujihadeen [holy warriors] killed a CIA officer on Thursday while he was in Aden Province, after tracking him and determining he was cooperating with the Sanaa government," Reuters reports. Yemeni and Pentagon officials denied the report, however, saying that a gunman did attack a US vehicle on Friday but did not cause any injuries.
The attacks present an early challenge for the new government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who took power last week after Saleh stepped down following months of protests and upheaval. Mr. Hadi, a longtime deputy of Saleh and a relative unknown in Yemen, has indicated his intention to crack down on Al Qaeda and retake the militant-controlled south.