Clashes between the army and Al-Qaeda militants for the control of Yemen’s southern province of Abyan have killed 10 jihadists and a soldier over the weekend, local and military sources said on Sunday.
Four militants were killed in fighting early Sunday when the jihadists using machineguns clashed with the army in the southern district of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan, a military official said.
The official from the 25th Mechanised Brigade fighting in the city had told AFP earlier that two other jihadists were killed late Saturday in Zinjibar’s southern district, while an Al-Qaeda sniper had shot dead a soldier there.
He said that “the army is controlling most of Zinjibar’s outskirts”, referring to the northern, eastern, and southern areas. “But we have not yet taken over central Zinjibar,” he said.
He said the army is still trying to control Zinjibar’s remaining northwestern entrances to cut it off from Jaar, to its north, and Shaqra, 35 kilometres (22 miles) to its east. Both are under the control of militants since June 2011.
On Sunday, another military official on the ground said that troops and militiamen fighting alongside the army from the town of Loder have advanced towards Shaqra to “tighten the noose around Al-Qaeda militants from all sides.”
Four other Al-Qaeda fighters were killed in Jaar, a major stronghold of jihadists in Abyan late Saturday, a local source said.
“Four Al-Qaeda militants were killed late on Saturday when the army fired artillery rounds south of Jaar,” the source said.
Yemeni forces launched an all-out offensive on May 12 aimed at reclaiming Zinjibar and other localities in Abyan lost to Al-Qaeda during the past year.
Since the assault began, at least 387 people have been killed, according to an AFP tally compiled from official statements. They comprised 285 Al-Qaeda fighters, 66 military personnel, 18 local militiamen and 18 civilians.