SANAA - At least 18 people guarding the Yemeni intelligence headquarters were killed when a group of gunmen broke into the building in the southern port city of Aden on Saturday, an unnamed local security official said.
"About 18 guards and officers of the intelligence service were confirmed killed and many others seriously wounded," the official said.
"The gunmen, wearing security uniform and armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, drove speedily with two cars towards the main gate of the intelligence service headquarters and killed three soldiers guarding the gate on the spot," the official told Xinhua.
He added the gunmen exchanged fire with guards at the headquarters in the city's Tawahi District for about half an hour and managed to enter and free unspecified numbers of detainees.
The five gunmen were very skillful militants who fought and moved fast, taking away some of the detainees, the official said.
The five militants broke into the building shouting Allah Akbar (God is the greatest), and were shooting nonstop, he said, adding that ten more gunmen were backing them outside the building by firing rocket-propelled grenades.
Witnesses saw the building send out heavy smoke and ambulances rush to the scene after a series of explosive sounds and gunshots.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but a well- informed source said the attack was launched by al-Qaida to free their jailed members.
There had been no government comment on the incident so far.
The poor Arab country is facing al-Qaida presence and a stronger southern call for disengagement from the north.
Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al-Qaida network leader Osama bin Laden, has intensified security operations and air raids against terrorist groups, after the Yemen-based al-Qaida wing claimed responsibility for a failed Christmas Day attempt to blow up a US passenger plane bound for Detroit last year.