'Al-Qaeda fighters' killed in Yemen attacks

Two suspected US drone attacks in south and Yemeni army offensive leave more than 20 people dead.

    Two suspected US drone attacks in Yemen have killed at least 10 al-Qaeda-linked fighters, while Yemeni government forces killed several others in a new offensive against the armed group in the country's south, sources said.

    Five al-Qaeda members died on Saturday after two rocket attacks hit vehicles transporting them near the village of al-Hosoon in the city of Marib in eastern Yemen, a tribal chief told the AFP news agency.

    Other witnesses confirmed the attack, AFP said.

    This came soon after an earlier raid further to the east, near Shabwah, took out five other suspected members of al-Qaeda, according to a regional official.

    An air strike believed to have been carried out by a US drone set a vehicle on fire, killing its passengers the official told the Reuters news agency.

    There was no immediate word from the US on whether Washington was behind Saturday's attacks.

    Yemen's new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who took power in February after Saleh stepped down has ramped up the fight against al-Qaeda fighters who took advantage of political instability to make gains in the south last year.

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    Separately on Saturday, at least 12 al-Qaeda members were killed in an offensive against the armed group, as the Yemeni army moved to reclaim Zinjibar, the capital of restive Abyan province, and other areas controlled by the fighters.

    Six soldiers were also killed in that offensive, a military official who did not want to be further identified told Reuters.

    "A force of about 20,000 men is taking part in this offensive, ordered by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to free
    the cities of Zinjibar and Jaar," the official said.

    Navy units would also be used in operations along Abyan's coast on the Gulf of Aden, he added.

    Last week, the US defence department said Washington had resumed training of Yemeni armed forces to bolster the fight against al-Qaeda, following a suspension during the political upheaval that toppled former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

    US officials revealed earlier this week that they had thwarted a plot by the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian
    Peninsula (AQAP) to arm a suicide bomber with a non-metallic device, an upgraded version of the "underwear bomb" carried onto an airliner on Christmas Day 2009.

    AQAP, a regional branch of the network, has plotted overseas attacks that have been prevented but raised major
    concern for Washington, which is trying to wipe out suspected AQAP operatives with drone and missile strikes.

    But tribal leaders in parts of Yemen where drone attacks aimed at AQAP have killed civilians say the air strikes are turning more and more people against the government and the US.

    Yemen's army, which split into two factions during the uprising that eventually unseated Saleh, has been battling to get the upper hand against the fighters.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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