ADEN Nine people were killed and 14 soldiers kidnapped on Tuesday after a clash between gunmen and Yemeni troops in the southern city of Dalea, a separatist stronghold, local residents and the defense ministry said.
The incident occurred when gunmen attacked a truck carrying food supplies, the defense ministry said on its website. In the ensuing clash, four soldiers and one officer were killed and 14 others were abducted by what the ministry called "saboteurs".
Local residents said four civilians, including a child, were also killed in the incident. The identity of the gunmen was not immediately clear.
Dalea is a stronghold for separatists demanding restoration of the former socialist state of South Yemen, which merged with the North in 1990.
The Dalea province has seen regular but small-scale clashes between armed men and government troops since late December, when a shell fired by Yemeni soldiers hit a funeral attended by southern separatists, killing 15 people, including children.
Tackling lawlessness in Yemen, an impoverished Arabian Peninsula state bordering the world's biggest oil exporter Saudi Arabia, is an international priority. The United States views Yemen as a front line in its struggle against al Qaeda.
(Reporting By Mohammed Mukhashaf, writing by Mirna Sleiman, editing by Sami Aboudi and Gareth Jones) nL6N0LN1U7