ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - Yemeni troops killed a local al Qaeda commander and four of his aides on Sunday in clashes in a southern province where the army has been waging an offensive against the militant network.
The Defence Ministry’s 26 September news website quoted a military source as saying the militant, known by his nickname al-Meqdad, was killed in Qarn al-Sawda, an area of Shabwa province where the Yemeni army campaign has been concentrated.
Yemeni forces have faced a wave of hit-and-run attacks by the insurgents since the army captured their strongholds in al-Mahfad in Abyan province and in Mayfa‘a, Azzan and Gol al-Rayda in Shabwa province earlier this month.
Many of the militants, from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and its affiliate, Ansar al-Sharia, fled to the mountains and turned to guerrilla tactics against security forces and government facilities.
Yemen is a U.S. ally whose instability concerns neighboring oil-exporting giant Saudi Arabia as well as Western nations worried that al Qaeda could use the weakly governed and impoverished country as a launchpad for international attacks.
The United States has stepped up its aid and support for the government and military, including drone strikes.
A series of drone strikes killed some 65 militants in late April before the ground offensive commenced.
The United States has acknowledged using drones in Yemen, though it does not comment on individual strikes.
On Saturday, five suspected militants were killed when they tried to ambush an army patrol on the edge of the city of Habban, a military source said, adding that one soldier was killed.
Yemen has been beset by turmoil since 2011, when mass protests, part of the Arab Spring that began in North Africa, forced long-ruling president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.
Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf, writing by Sami Aboudi, editing by Rosalind Russell