ADEN (Reuters) - Eight policemen were killed in an ambush by suspected al Qaeda members near a gas export facility in southern Yemen on Monday, residents said.
The attack occurred near an army checkpoint close to the Belhaf gas export terminal, which loads liquefied natural gas (LNG) to South Korea, Yemen's biggest customer, and to European companies. Attacks on pipelines feeding the port have been regular and interrupted exports earlier this year.
The militants, who were in two cars, surrounded the policemen's vehicle and opened fire, killing all of them, the residents said.
The gunmen were believed to be members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), they said.
Shabwa Province, a lawless and rugged part of Yemen, has seen much fighting in recent years between Islamist militants and the security forces.
Maintaining stability in impoverished Yemen is a priority for Washington and Gulf states because of its proximity to major oil shipping routes and Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter.
AQAP is one of the most active branches of the network founded by Osama bin Laden, and militants have launched attacks from there against the West.
(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; writing by Rania El Gamal, editing by William Hardy)