Yemeni troops killed seven suspected Al-Qaeda militants in an attack on their positions in Abyan province in the restive south, local government officials said on Wednesday.
The army launched a barrage of “artillery shells and Katyusha rockets” late Tuesday on suspected Al-Qaeda positions in the provincial capital Zinjibar and the adjacent town of Al-Kud, one official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Seven militants were killed, including one Pakistani, an Iranian and two Africans,” the official said.
Battles between the army and Al-Qaeda linked militants of the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law) group have raged in Abyan province since they seized Zinjibar in May.
Local residents in Jaar, another Al-Qaeda stronghold just north of the provincial capital where the militants were to be buried, said foreign Al-Qaeda fighters had been increasingly visible in recent days.
“We are seeing more and more foreign fighters in the last three days, including Egyptians, Iraqis, Libyans and others of African origin,” one resident said.
Since January, when tens of thousands of Yemenis launched an unprecedented protest movement against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime, Al-Qaeda linked militants have taken advantage of the weakening of central authority to set up base in Abyan as well as neighbouring Shabwa and in Marib further north.
Despite months of clashes, government troops have so far been unable to take back full control of Abyan’s towns and cities.