Gunmen have killed 20 soldiers in an attack on a military checkpoint in eastern Yemen, according to the country's state news agency.

Military sources blamed Monday's attack, which happened in Hadramawt province, on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

One source told the AFP news agency that fighters in several vehicles attacked the position in Reida, 135km from the provincial capital Mukalla.

There have been frequent attacks on security forces in Yemen and the violence is usually blamed on al-Qaeda. The group remains active in the south and east of the country despite military campaigns to defeat it.

A car bomb attack on military intelligence headquarters in Tuban, near Aden, killed one person and injured 13 others on March 18.

The United States launches regular drone attacks against what it calls "militants" and has killed dozens of fighters within the past year. The strikes have been criticised by human rights activists, who say they have killed many civilians.

The United Nations said 16 civilians died and at least 10 were wounded when drones targeted two separate wedding processions in December.

AQAP have capitalised on the weakening of the central government in Sanaa after a popular uprising in 2011 forced former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down the following year.

Source: Agencies