Clashes between the army and al-Qaeda militants over the control of Yemen’s southern province of Abyan have killed six jihadists and a soldier, local and military sources said on Sunday.
“Four al-Qaeda militants were killed late on Saturday when the army fired artillery rounds south of Jaar,” a major al-Qaeda stronghold in Abyan which the Yemeni troops have been trying to retake since they launched an all-out offensive against the militants on May 12, a local source said.
In the nearby provincial capital of Zinjibar, which militants overran over a year ago, a military official said that two other jihadists were killed in clashes Saturday in the city’s southern district, while an al-Qaeda sniper shot dead a soldier.
“The army is controlling most of Zinjibar’s outskirts”, the official said referring to the northern, eastern, and southern areas.
“But we have not yet taken over central Zinjibar,” the official from the 25th Mechanized Brigade fighting in the city said.
He said the army is still trying to control Zinjibar’s remaining northwestern entrances to “cut it off from Jaar and Shaqra,” 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of the city and which militants control since June 2011.
Yemeni forces launched an all-out offensive on May 12 aimed at reclaiming Zinjibar and other localities in Abyan lost to al-Qaeda during the past year.
Since the offensive began, at least 383 people have been killed, according to an AFP tally compiled from official statements. They comprised 281 al-Qaeda fighters, 66 military personnel, 18 local militiamen and 18 civilians.