Yemeni troops have launched a ground assault against al-Qaeda suspects who fled a recent large army operation in the south to a district near the capital Sanaa, killing three fighters, sources told AFP news agency.
"Yemen's anti-terrorism forces carried out a military operation in Arhab… killing three Al-Qaeda militants and arresting four others," a security official said. Arhab is approximately 35 kilometres away from Sanaa.
Tribal sources in the region said the army had closed access to Arhab as it continued to target fighters.
The same sources said that in late 2011, the targeted suspects had fought in Syria, where foreigners had joined the conflict between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebels battling to overthrow him.
The fighters, who included foreigners, returned to Yemen and were in the southern al-Qaeda bastions of Shabwa and Abyan before an army offensive that was launched on April 29 drove them to Arhab, according to the tribal sources.
The army says it has inflicted heavy losses upon al-Qaeda during its latest offensive.
Warplanes target suspected fighter
Late on Saturday, Yemeni warplanes launched three air strikes targeting the house of another suspected fighter also in Arhab, tribal sources told AFP, alleging the fighter was also among those who had returned from Syria.
There were casualties, the house was damaged, and two cars were destroyed, the sources told AFP, without giving a toll.
Al-Qaeda exploited the 11-month-long 2011 uprising in Yemen that led to the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and seized large bastions in the south and east of the country.
The army recaptured several major towns in 2012 but has struggled to reassert control in rural areas despite recruiting militia allies among the local tribes.