Yemen’s army shelled Al-Qaeda hideouts in the southern city of Zinjibar, one of the jihadists’ major strongholds, killing six militants, a local official told AFP on Monday.
The official, speaking from the nearby town of Jaar where wounded militants and dead bodies from Zinjibar are usually taken, said that “a Somali group leader named Abu Bilal” was among those killed in the late Sunday assault.
The extremists, who go under the name Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), have been locked in battles with the army in Abyan’s provincial capital Zinjibar since May 2011, when they overran the city.
The Partisans of Sharia have exploited a central government weakened by a year of anti-regime protests to strengthen their position, launching deadly attacks against security forces especially in the lawless south and southeast.
On Sunday, the militants killed seven policemen in an attack on a checkpoint in the southeast while clashes between the army and the Islamists a day earlier left 40 dead from both sides.
Last month, 185 soldiers were killed in a massive assault by Al-Qaeda militants on an army camp near Zinjibar.