Six killed as Yemeni troops advance on Qaeda bastion

AFP, Monday 28 May 2012

Military and local officials say at least five Al-Qaeda militants and one civilian were killed in overnight battles in Yemen's turbulent Abyan province

File photo released by Yemen News Agency (SABA) smokes raise from the US Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008. (Photo: AP)

At least six people have been killed in overnight battles in Yemen's war-torn southern Abyan province as troops inched closer to the Al-Qaeda stronghold of Jaar, military and local officials said on Monday.

"Five Al-Qaeda militants...and one civilian was killed," a military official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He said the dead Qaeda operatives included a "mid-level commander" of the network known as Abdul Rahman al-Musallami.

A local official in Jaar confirmed the toll and said the bodies of the five militants were taken to the city for burial.

Yemeni troops advanced to "about three kilometres of Jaar," and have "surrounded the city from the north, the east and the west," said the military official.

He said the overnight assault on Al-Qaeda positions in and around Jaar involved both ground troops and Yemeni air force. "We are tightening the noose around Al-Qaeda," he added.The army also made strides in their advances on Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan that fell to the militants in May 2011, he said, but gave no further details.

Yemeni forces launched an all-out offensive on May 12 this year to capture Al-Qaeda controlled areas in Abyan.

Since the offensive began, at least 338 people have been killed, according to a tally compiled by AFP, including 247 Al-Qaeda fighters, 55 military personnel, 18 local militiamen and 18 civilians.

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