Last updated: 7 May, 2014

Yemen says foreign Al-Qaeda suspects killed in army offensive

An Algerian, a Pakistani, and a Saudi are among Al-Qaeda suspects killed in an offensive against extremists in southern Yemen, the army said Wednesday.

“The body of Abu Ayub al-Jazairi, a local (Algerian) leader of Al-Qaeda, was found in Wadi Dhiqa,” a valley located between the southern provinces of Shabwa and Abyan, the ministry said on its website.

“Another local chief, (Pakistani) Nakhii, aka Mikassa, was killed by our brave soldiers, as well as another, named Abu Dojana (a Saudi),” the ministry said, adding that both had died in Shabwa.

The offensive began on April 29 in the country’s rugged southern and central provinces, where a wave of US drone strikes killed scores of suspected Al-Qaeda militants last month.

Several foreigners suspected of membership in the network have been killed in the offensive, with authorities also speaking of Afghans, Somalis and Chechens.

The dead include two foreign commanders. One is Abu Islam al-Shishani, who had Chechen links, and Abu Muslim al-Uzbeki, who hailed from Uzbekistan.

So far, 75 militants and more than 24 soldiers have been killed in the latest operations, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — formed out of a merger of the network’s Yemeni and Saudi branches — has denied President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi’s allegations that 70 percent of its fighters are foreigners.

AQAP has been linked to a number of failed terror plots against the United States, and its leader Nasser al-Wuhayshi recently appeared in a rare video in which he vowed to attack Western “crusaders” wherever they are.

The jihadists took advantage of a 2011 uprising that forced veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh from power to seize large swathes of southern and eastern Yemen.

The army recaptured several major towns in 2012 but has struggled to reassert control in rural areas, despite the backing of militiamen recruited among local tribes.