By Fatik al-Rodaini
SANA'A, April 11, 2012- At least 12 al-Qaeda militants were killed on Wednesday afternoon in an air strike in Yemen's southern province of Abyan.
Sources said that an air strike conducted by the Yemeni forces took-out a car believed to be carrying al-Qaeda militants between Lawdar and Amaen cities, killing all passengers.
Yemeni government soldiers backed by tribesmen battled al-Qaeda militants in a third day of clashes in heavy fighting killing at least 31 people.
The clashes took place at Jebel Yasuf district, some 10 km from the town of Lawdar, where dozens of people have been killed since Monday, raising the death toll from three days of clashes to at least 158.
Yemen's Defense Ministry said in a statement that it had destroyed a number of checkpoints set up by militants on a main road linking Lawdar to the neighboring province of Al-Bayda, re-opening the route.
The ministry mentioned that Saudi Arabian, Pakistani and Somali nationals were among the militants killed in the Lawdar area.
On Tuesday at least eight soldiers were killed and four others wounded during an attack at an army checkpoint by armed men believed to be al-Qaeda militants in Yemen’s eastern province of Mareb.
According to analysts, al-Qaeda in Yemen is considered a serious and growing threat for Yemeni government and for the United States.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi vowed to fight al Qaeda and its affiliates when he took office earlier this year after his predecessor quit under pressure from anti-government protesters and foreign powers anxious to halt a slide into mayhem.
Militants have since stepped up their operations against the army, carrying out a string of deadly attacks that have cast a long shadow over the country's first months post-Ali Abdullah Saleh.
In return, the Yemeni air force has launched air strikes on suspected militant strongholds and the United States has joined in with drones.
The United States and Saudi Arabia - both targets of al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing - fear Yemen is becoming a major front in its campaign against the militant network, which has been dealt a number of blows over the past year, not least the killing of its founder and leader Osama bin Laden.