Yemen air force, troops kill 72 ‘terrorists’
ADEN: Yemen's air force and ground troops killed at least 72 suspected al Qaeda-linked terrorists on Wednesday, officials and tribal sources said, in the government's latest drive to contain an increasingly fierce extremist insurgency.
Terrorist group Ansar al-Shariah said however only two of its fighters had been killed in Wednesday's clashes.
Still reeling from a year of political upheaval that eventually unseated former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen is grappling with terrorists who have been exploiting weakened central government control to spread their influence, particularly in the country's south.
Local officials and residents said the army killed 30 terrorists in fighting on Jebel Yasuf, a mountain around 10 kilometres from the southern town of Lawdar.
Dozens of people have been killed in the Lawdar area since Monday, according to officials, after Ansar al-Shariah fighters attacked an army camp there.
Tribal sources later said a further 27 terrorists, including a local commander called Ahmed Dararish, had been killed by tribal fighters near the southern entrance to Lawdar. Three tribesmen also died in the clashes.
An air strike on the town of Umm Ayn, around 10 kilometres from Lawdar, killed another five terrorists, a local official said.
Ansar al-Shariah denied that. In an emailed statement whose authenticity could not immediately be verified, it said the air raid, which it blamed on a Saudi warplane, had struck a warehouse belonging to a civilian.
A senior government official said the fighting around Lawdar marked a turning point in its fight against Ansar al-Shariah following a series of defeats.
"The battle of Lawdar is considered a decisive one for the army against the terrorist groups and a prelude to the cleansing of all towns seized by terrorists in the province of Abyan," said the official. He said 10 terrorists had also been captured. Ansar al-Shariah said none of its fighters had been taken prisoner. reuters