Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Yemen army shells Al-Qaeda posts, kills 12: local official

Militants in Yemen face opposition from government as well as heavily armed tribes; army attacks militant hideouts in Zinjibar

AFP, Tuesday 14 Feb 2012

Yemen's army shelled Al-Qaeda positions in the southern city of Zinjibar on Tuesday, killing 12 extremists, a local government official told AFP.

"Twelve Al-Qaeda militants were killed when the army fired artillery shells and Katyusha rockets on their positions across several areas in Zinjibar," said the official in the adjacent town of Jaar, where the militants were buried.

A military official confirmed the shelling but said he could not yet provide a toll.

In May, militants from Al-Qaeda branch in Yemen who declare themselves the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), took control of Zinjibar, triggering nine months of fighting between militants and government troops.

Tribal and government officials said on 4 February that the government is trying to negotiate the withdrawal of the extremists from the city, which is the capital of Abyan province.

So far, at least three tribal-mediated negotiation attempts to secure a militants withdrawal have failed.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the fighting and more than 90,000 residents displaced.

On 25 January, hundreds of Al-Qaeda gunmen bowed to tribal pressures and withdrew from the town of Rada, 130 kilometres (85 miles) southeast of the capital Sanaa.

Rada was overrun on 16 January, the latest in a series of towns and cities to fall as Al-Qaeda takes advantage of a central government weakened by months of anti-regime protests.

Heavily armed tribes, which play a vital role in Yemeni politics and society, have been joining the army to battle militants linked to Al-Qaeda who have taken over several regions across the country's south and east.

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