Last updated: 7 June, 2012

25 Al-Qaeda gunmen killed in south Yemen

Violence in south Yemen on Thursday killed 30 people, of whom 25 were Al-Qaeda fighters, including five in an air strike by the Yemeni air force, officials said.

The air raid struck the eastern outskirts of Jaar, a town in Abyan province that is controlled by Al-Qaeda, and also wounded militants, said a local official.

Two other Al-Qaeda fighters were killed in fighting with militiamen belonging to the Popular Resistance Committees, who are fighting alongside the army, in the village of Batis, north of Jaar, the official said.

The clashes erupted when the militants attempted to return to the village which they had controlled until they were chased out by the army last week.

And five more jihadists were killed in an ambush near Batis, the official added.

The ambush by pro-army militiamen was led by a former Al-Qaeda militant, Abdullah al-Sayed, who defected last year in protest at the presence of “foreigners” in the ranks of the Islamists group.

After the ambush, fierce fighting erupted between militants and the militiamen when the jihadists launched an evening assault on Batis, using shells and machine-guns, causing more deaths, sources said.

“In all, 20 Al-Qaeda militants were killed in Thursday’s military operations around Batis,” the deputy governor of Abyan, Ahmed Ghaleb al-Raghawi, told AFP.

He added that a number of Popular Resistance Committees militiamen were also killed but did not provide a specific toll.

The defence ministry confirmed that a total of 20 Al-Qaeda militants were killed on Thursday in violence around Batis alone, according to its website.

A local official told AFP, meanwhile, that four militiamen and a women were killed in the fighting near Batis.

Yemeni forces launched an all-out offensive on May 12 aimed at reclaiming the Abyan provincial capital Zinjibar and other towns and cities lost to Al-Qaeda during the past year.

Since the beginning of the attack, 446 people have been killed, according to an AFP tally combined from different sources. This includes 333 Al-Qaeda militants, 68 soldiers, 26 local armed men, and 19 civilians.