Last Updated: Sat May 26, 2012 19:09 pm (KSA) 16:09 pm (GMT)

Yemen’s army says recaptured key positions in rebel-held Zinjibar

Yemeni forces launched an offensive on May 12 to capture al-Qaeda controlled areas in Abyan. (AFP)
Yemeni forces launched an offensive on May 12 to capture al-Qaeda controlled areas in Abyan. (AFP)

The Yemeni army battled al Qaeda-linked militants deep inside Zinjibar on Saturday, recapturing key positions inside the southern rebel-held city and killing at least 62 Islamist fighters, including Somalis, a military official said.

The official said three government soldiers died and four were wounded in the fighting, part of an offensive that began earlier this month to uproot Islamist militants from southern Yemen.

He said many of the dead militants were Somalis, but gave no precise figures.

Troops “cleansed” Maraqi and Mashqasa, located on the northeastern outskirts of Zinjibar, and seized machineguns, rockets, and rocket propelled grenades, the source said.

Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) have exploited last year’s popular protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-years in office and captured large swathes of territory in the province of Abyan, including the provincial capital Zinjibar.

Yemeni forces launched an offensive on May 12 to capture al-Qaeda controlled areas in Abyan.

The expansion of the militants’ area of control has unsettled the United States and Saudi Arabia, both targets of failed attacks by Yemen’s al-Qaeda wing which earlier this week claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Sana’a on Monday that killed more than 100 soldiers.

Both countries have been pushing new Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Hadi Mansour, who took over after Saleh stepped down in February, to unite the army and roll back the militants’ gains.

Washington considers al-Qaeda in Yemen, which has attracted foreign fighters from places like Somalia and Saudi Arabia, the world’s most active terror cell.

Yemeni forces last week recaptured parts of the strategic city of Zinjibar and fought militants in the city of Jaar, another militant stronghold, leaving 33 militants and nine soldiers dead.
Yemeni forces launched an offensive on May 12 to capture al-Qaeda controlled areas in Abyan.

Since the offensive against militants began, 332 people have been killed, according to a tally compiled by AFP, including 242 al-Qaeda fighters, 55 military personnel, 18 local militiamen and 17 civilians.

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