The death toll from the battles between the army and Al-Qaida militants in south Yemen rose on Tuesday to 50 including soldiers, popular fighters, civilians and militants, Almasdar Online reported, quoting informed sources. Popular fighters from the local tribes in Abyan have been supporting the army to fight the militants.
A senior Al-Qaida leader and 13 militants were killed in two airstrikes early Tuesday and 7 more militants were killed in a third raid in the Jaar city, the website reported.
The leader, who was killed, was identified as Al-Muhajir, the Sharia officer within the branch of Al-Qaida in the country, it said. The group has not confirmed or denied his death.
A fourth raid targeted two militants while they were on their car notifying locals about decisions by Al-Qaida, but the website did not clarify what the decisions were.
More militants were killed while rushing to check whether their fellows were alive after raids and to take the bodies of those were dead, the website added.
Almost seven civilians were killed when they went to have a look at the scenes where the bodies of the militants were found, it said.
In addition, military sources were quoted as saying 18 more militants were killed during the battles with the popular fighters in the Lawder city. Four soldiers, eight popular fighters of those supporting the army were also killed in the battles, the military sources said, according to the website.
The army has regained control of many parts in Abyan province and the forces are further stepping up the offensive to clear militants from the remaining parts, they continued.
Exploiting the unrest last year, Al-Qaida seized some key towns in Abyan including the capital Zinjibar.
Almost a month ago, the army with support from the citizens waged fierce battles to retake control of this southern province killing and injuring many militants. More recently, the army has stepped up an offensive to completely clear the province from militants.