The death toll among Yemeni government troops attacked by al-Qa'ida militants at the weekend has risen to 185, military officials said today.
The officials said the count rose after more bodies were found in the desert outside the provincial capital of Abyan province, Zinjibar.
The attack on Sunday also left at least 32 militants dead. Officials said there were scores of wounded from both sides.
Medical officials in the area confirmed the latest death toll and said some of the bodies of soldiers were mutilated or decapitated.
The death toll is believed to be the highest on record from battles fought by the army against al-Qa'ida militants.
Militants had seized control of Zinjibar in May, taking advantage of political turmoil linked to the uprising against then president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Saleh stepped down last month in a US-backed power transfer deal that Washington hoped would allow Yemen's new leaders to move against al Qaida, but the fighting highlights the difficulties faced by his successor, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in combating the militant movement and restoring state authority in the lawless south.
Military officials said the militants seized armoured vehicles, artillery pieces, assault rifles and rockets from the stores of an army base they attacked. Some of the heavy weapons were later used against the troops, causing most of the casualties.Reuse content