Three police officers and at least three suspected Al-Qaeda militants were killed in clashes Wednesday in Yemen’s southeastern Hadramawt province, an extremist stronghold, police said.
Al-Qaeda suspects hiding in two houses in Hadramawt’s city of Shahr opened fire at police searching the area, an official said.
The clashes broke out around dawn Wednesday and continued intermittently for several hours before spreading to neighbouring parts of the city, the police official told AFP.
“The bodies of three Al-Qaeda fighters were taken by security forces to the Ibn Sina hospital in Mukalla,” Hadramawt’s capital that lies 35 kilometres (22 miles) from Shahr, said another security official, without giving a precise figure on the number of militants killed.
Fighter jets flew over Shahr, where normal business came to a near standstill on Wednesday, according to residents.
But the clashes subsided later in the afternoon and army vehicles pulled out of the area, according to residents.
On Tuesday, three extremists were killed by a drone strike that targeted their vehicle in the same province, local officials said.
Yemen is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden and the home base of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which the United States views as the global jihadist network’s most dangerous franchise.
AQAP took advantage of a decline in central government control during Yemen’s 2011 uprising — which eventually forced president Ali Abdullah Saleh from power — to seize large swathes of territory across the south.
The militants were driven back in June 2012 and the group has been weakened by US drone strikes.
But AQAP remains active in southern and eastern Yemen, and regularly carries out hit-and-run attacks on security forces.
The group has also been linked to several attempted attacks on the United States, including a botched bid to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day in 2009.