South Yemen airstrikes kill at least 10 suspected militants

The reported airstrike is near an area where Ansar al-Sharia last week said it killed at least 20 Yemeni soldiers. (File photo)

Airstrikes by the Yemeni military killed at least 10 Islamists in southern Yemen on Thursday, a local official said, in the latest episode of fighting with militants who have seized territory in the region.

A local official in southern Abyan province, parts of which are controlled by an al-Qaeda-linked group called Ansar al-Sharia, said two strikes targeted Islamists in the village of Umm al-Jabalayn, near the city of Jaar.

Residents of Jaar, which is under the control of Ansar al-Sharia, said they saw members of the group bringing bodies back to the city for burial.

The United States has also carried out attacks with drones on alleged al-Qaeda members in the region, and last year used a CIA drone to assassinate a U.S. citizen whom prosecutors later said plotted an abortive attack abroad.

The reported strike is near an area where Ansar al-Sharia last week said it killed at least 20 Yemeni soldiers.

Yemen has a seen a surge in violence in the south since President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi took office in late February, vowing to fight Islamist militants who expanded their footprint during political turmoil over the fate of Hadi’s predecessor.

Mass protests aimed at ending the 33-year rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh, long a key figure in Washington’s “counter-terrorism” plans, erupted in early 2011. The demonstrations were coupled with fighting within an army divided between Saleh’s foes and allies.

Washington, which has said it wants to see Hadi reunify the military to fight Islamists, backed his succession under a deal engineered by oil producer Saudi Arabia, which fears a slide into chaos in Yemen could have effects across its borders.

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