The tribal leader has turned against Yemen's president and joined the protest movement. Government forces attacked the home of the tribal leader Tuesday. That prompted his fighters to reoccupy several government buildings they had seized in a similar round of fighting last week.
A Yemeni security official said militants ambushed an army unit driving toward the town Tuesday, killing five soldiers and injuring 12. The militants fired on the army convoy from behind, forcing them to speed into an ambush where other gunmen fired on their cars.
Almost four months of mass street protests across Yemen calling for democratic reforms and the ouster of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh have rocked the stability of this impoverished corner of the Arabian Peninsula.
The upheaval in Yemen has sparked fears that militant groups will take over. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operates in its weak governed provinces along with a number of other radicals, like the ones who overran the town of Zinjibar near Yemen's south coast over the weekend.
It remains unclear whether the Islamists who seized Zinjibar are connected to al Qaeda. Other armed Islamist groups have sought refuge in the area, including some who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and others who fought with Saleh's government in a 1994 civil war with the south.
Before Tuesday's ambush, the Interior Ministry said 22 soldiers had been killed since Friday. It remains unclear how many civilians and militants have been killed.
The Associated Press contributed to this story