Yemeni raids kill 16 al-Qaida militants in south

Yemeni raids kill 16 al-Qaida militants in south

Yemeni government forces pounded al-Qaida targets today, killing at least 16 militants in the troubled south where the army is trying to uproot the terror group, military officials said.

In one attack, Yemeni warplanes struck an al-Qaida hideout about 70 kilometres from the southern city of Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan. The bombardment killed at least 10 militants, the officials said.

The army also fired missiles at a moving vehicle on the outskirts of another southern town, Lawder, killing six militants inside it, they said. The town was controlled by al-Qaida last year until its residents drove out the militants, who have since been trying to stage a comeback.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Today's raids came a day after government bombings of al-Qaida positions across the south killed at least 30 militants.

The attacks are part of the Yemeni military's broader campaign against al-Qaida-linked fighters.

The militants have seized towns and territory across southern Yemen over the past year, taking advantage of a security vacuum linked to the country's political turmoil that pushed longtime authoritarian leader Ali Abdullah Saleh from power.

The front lines are concentrated around Zinjibar and another Abyan town, Jaar, where al-Qaida has held sway since March 2011. If the military were to reclaim the two strongholds, it would deal a severe blow to the militants, leaving them scattered in remote mountain areas away from urban centres.

In Jaar, militants sought refuge from yesterday's intense bombardment, hunkering down inside government buildings in the town centre. Warplanes dropped leaflets urging residents not to let the militants hide inside their homes.

The intensifying war against al-Qaida in Yemen which the US says is one of the terror network's most active is a top priority for Saleh's successor and former deputy, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Hadi took office in February in a US-backed power transfer deal and has since ramped up the fight against al-Qaida

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