11 People, Including Top Officers, Killed in Clashes with al-Qaida in Yemen


Eleven people including top officers have been killed in fierce clashes between Yemen's army and suspected al-Qaida militants in the country's restive south, military and local officials said on Saturday.

"Al-Qaida elements stationed in Dofas (Abyan province) attacked army units there using machine guns on Friday, killing two officers and four soldiers, and wounding nine others," a military official in the village told Agence France Presse.

The official identified the dead officers as Colonel Mohammed al-Salahi and Colonel Hilal Shamsan.

Medics at a military hospital in the strategic southern port city of Aden confirmed the toll.

A local official in Dofas, 15 kilometers (nine miles) south of Abyan's provincial capital of Zinjibar, said that five members of the extremist network were also killed during the attack and four more were wounded.

On Friday also, 12 tribesmen were killed and 20 others were wounded in clashes with the militants east of Zinjibar, a top security official in the area told AFP.

"Around 200 tribesmen came from the (coastal) village of Shaqra heading towards Zinjibar when they clashed with al-Qaida elements" near the city, Abdullah Naser al-Jadani said.

Tribal sources said the militants forced the tribesmen into a government building seized by the network, prompting the army to launch an air raid.

Jadani said that three out of the 12 were "mistakenly" killed in the air strike while the rest were shot dead by al-Qaida militants.

A medic at a hospital in the town of Jaar, which is controlled by the extremists, said that two al-Qaida militants were killed and 14 others were wounded.

Militants belonging to the "Partisans of Sharia" (Islamic law), which is suspected of links to al-Qaida, took over much of Zinjibar in May. Thousands of residents have since been displaced by fighting there.

Deputy Information Minister Abdo al-Janadi said last week that the United States had provided logistical support to the Yemen military's 25th Mechanized Brigade, which was until recently besieged by the militants in Zinjibar.

U.S. commanders have repeatedly expressed concern that the jihadists have been taking advantage of a protracted power vacuum in Sanaa to expand their operations.

Since January, protesters have been demanding the ouster of veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in hospital in Saudi Arabia since early June being treated for wounds sustained in a blast at his palace.