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The militants reportedly opened fire with machine-guns at an army checkpoint in Bayhan, in Shabwa province, at dawn.
The interior ministry says eight troops and six tribesmen died. Initial reports said a civilian was among those killed.
Meanwhile, the army said 40 soldiers and 500 militants had been killed since an offensive against al-Qaeda and its allies in the south began in April.
The army regained control of several major towns in Shabwa and Abyan provinces during a similar campaign in 2012, but the militants were able to retreat to remote rural areas and regroup.
Since the new campaign began on 29 April, following a series of deadly drone strikes on their strongholds, the militants have fled to desert and mountain areas and stepped up their attacks on security personnel.
"I want to stress that the military operations will also include the areas where some militants have fled and where sabotage is taking place, which is the other face of terrorism," army spokesman Col Saeed al-Faquih told a news conference on Thursday.
He also noted that preparations were taking place in neighbouring Maarib province for a major assault on militant strongholds there.
President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi said in April that Yemen was at war with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the local offshoot of the global jihadist network.
AQAP and its allies have hindered the government's attempt to restore stability to the country since pro-democracy protesters forced long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand over power in 2011.