ADEN — Yemen’s military yesterday ramped up its offensive against Al Qaeda militants in the country’s restive south, launching ground and air assaults that sources said killed at least 44 people, including 12 civilians.
The town of Jaar in Abyan province was pounded by air strikes which killed 13 extremists and the 12 civilians, while battles raged in Loder, another Abyan town the jihadists have been wrestling to control, leaving another 12 Al Qaeda fighters dead, according to witnesses and tribal leaders.
Five militiamen fighting against Al Qaeda as well as two Yemeni soldiers also died in the Loder clashes, militia and military officials said.
Yemeni forces on Saturday launched a multi-pronged assault aimed at recapturing Al Qaeda-held towns and cities across Abyan, including the regional capital Zinjibar.
Yesterday, the military called in air strikes against targets in Jaar, five days after dropping leaflets by air warning civilians to stay clear of Al Qaeda hideouts in the town.
A first air strike killed two Al Qaeda suspects while the 12 civilians, part of a group who had gathered around the residence right after the attack, died in a second air raid that followed soon after, witnesses said.
“Eight bodies were pulled out of the rubble,” one witness said. Another four among 25 civilians injured in the second attack later died of their wounds, according to residents.
A later attack by the Yemeni air force killed another 11 jihadists, a local source and residents said.
Meanwhile, 12 other militants were killed in battles that raged further northeast in Loder, tribal sources said. — AFP