Local residents fear the renewed fighting between the government forces and suspected al-Qaeda fighters [EPA]

Yemeni aircraft have bombed suspected al-Qaeda positions in southern Yemen, a day after fighters ambushed a military convoy killing four soldiers.

Three suspected members of al-Qaeda's regional wing were reported killed in the assault on Sunday in the Mudiyah district of Abyan province, where the army has repeatedly battled armed groups in recent months.

Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from the Yemeni capital Sanaa, said that there were also reports of civilian casualties in the air raid.

One man was killed and two women and a child were injured in the air raid, a local official and residents said.

Resurgent al-Qaeda

Yemen is trying to quell a resurgent branch of al-Qaeda that has increased attacks on Western and regional targets in the Arabian Peninsula state, next to Saudi Arabia.

On Saturday, a car bomb wounded a senior intelligence officer and his assistant in Abyan, a security source said, and a government website said two fighters died in a botched suicide attack with a car on a security patrol in Mudiyah.

Mudiyah's police chief was killed in a suspected al-Qaeda attack last week and the provincial governor survived an assassination attempt.

"Authorities also said that they arrested an al-Qaeda operative who had plans to attack government locations," Ahelbarra said.

"This started in the centre of the country, where they were enjoying protection of significantly powerful leaders, but is now spreading."

Witnesses said that life in nearby areas has come to a halt and that tribal groups have also taken up arms amid rising tensions.

In fighting elsewhere in Abyan on Sunday, an artillery strike by the army killed one person and injured three of his relatives, an opposition news website said. The report could not be independently verified.

Resurgent fighters

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an arm of al-Qaeda thought to be include Yemenis and Saudis, has stepped up attacks on Yemeni and Western targets since it claimed a failed US airliner bombing in December.

The government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president, has been under pressure since then to go after the group more vigorously, with US backing.

Occasional US missile strikes have killed civilians as well as suspected fighters.

France urged spouses and children of its citizens to leave the country last week, following a rocket attack targeting a British diplomat in Sanaa and the death of a Frenchman after a security guard an an Austrian oil and gas firm opened fire.

Yemen is also trying to cement a truce with Shia rebels to end a civil war in the north that has raged on and off since 2004, and to end a separatist rebellion in the south.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies