21 Al Qaeda Operatives killed in fierce battle
Source : CNN,11/06/2011
Twenty-one al Qaeda members have been killed in Yemen's Abyan province, where fighting has raged on Saturday, Yemeni state TV said, citing a military source.
Clashes between security forces and suspected militants have erupted in Lawdar and Zinjibar, towns in Abyan -- a militant stronghold with a presence of Yemen's al Qaeda wing.
A security official told CNN that five Yemeni soldiers and three suspected al Qaeda gunmen were killed in clashes on Saturday in Lawdar.
It is unclear whether these casualties were among the 21 cited by the TV report..
The official, who has asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said Yemen's government is also conducting air raids on positions in Lawdar believed to be held by AQAP.
At least seven people were injured in the fighting, medics say, but it's not clear whether they were soldiers or militants. Eyewitnesses said militants torched three government tanks in the fighting, which they say started when the insurgents surrounded a military camp on Friday night.
Government forces have been fighting Islamic militants who seized the town of Zinjibar.
Heavy gunfire and explosions were heard through the city, and planes were seen flying overhead and conducting airstrikes, witnesses and residents said.
Yemen has been consumed with unrest for months as protesters demand an end to the rule of President Ali Abdullah
In recent weeks, government troops have battled both anti-government tribal forces and Islamic militants, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The chaos there intensified when Saleh and other senior officials were injured in a June 3 attack on the mosque at the presidential palace.
Saleh and other senior officials injured in the attack went to Saudi Arabia for treatment. A government spokesman on Thursday said Saleh was in good health and would be returning to Yemen "within days."
On Friday, Demonstrations erupted in several cities across Yemen, with protesters chanting "Saleh will fall" and "The end is near for Saleh," according to eyewitnesses.
A six-nation Gulf Arab alliance has tried to broker a government-opposition agreement that would lead to Saleh's departure, but that effort has so far been unsuccessful.