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Suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen on Thursday stormed the airport at Sayun, in Yemen's southeast Hadramawt province, killing three soldiers, a security official said.
The attackers gunned down the soldiers at the entrance to the international airport, which is also used by Yemen's air forces, before taking control of parts of the facility, including the control tower, the official said.
The rugged terrain of Hadramawt provides hideouts for militants of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, considered by Washington as the jihadist network's most dangerous affiliate.
Taking advantage of a collapse of central authority during a 2011 uprising that forced veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh from power, Al-Qaeda seized swathes of the south and east.
The army launched an all-out offensive late April against Al-Qaeda in Shabwa and neighbouring Abyan, in south Yemen, in a bid to expel its forces from smaller towns and villages that escaped a previous sweep in 2012.