By Fatik al-Rodaini
SANA'A, May 13, 2012- Ansar al-Sharia, a terror group linked to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula attacked on Saturday evening a military checkpoint in Yemen's eastern province of Mareb hours after two U.S drone strikes targeted convoy carrying suspected al-Qaeda militants in Wadi district of Mareb province.
Security sources reported that al-Qaeda militants exchanged fire with Yemeni troops in al-Zobra city of Madghel district, wounding three troops, two of them in critical condition.
Earlier Saturday, at least 11 militants of al-Qaeda terrorist network were killed in Yemen in two separate airstrikes.
One strike targeted the south-east of the capital Sana'a. It wiped out six members of the group, including a citizen of Egypt.
As a result of another operation in the province of Mareb to the east of Sana'a five terrorists were killed.
Separately, Yemeni military officials said an assault by government troops Saturday on Al Qaeda forces around the southern city of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, left a general, a soldier and six militants dead.
The attack was part of the Yemeni military’s broader campaign against Al Qaeda-linked fighters in the south. Residents say the military used warplanes and artillery to pound areas west and north of Zinjibar.
Over the past year, al-Qaeda has considerably strengthened its position in the south and east of Yemen on the backdrop of unrest sweeping the country.
Yemeni officials have reported more frequent U.S. drone strikes since Yemen’s new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, took power in February after Saleh stepped down. Hadi has since ramped up the fight against al-Qaeda militants.
The Pentagon recently sent American military trainers to Yemen, and Washington has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to assist the impoverished Arab nation fight Al Qaeda and other extremist groups in the country.
Over the past year, parts of Marib, Shabwa and other southern provinces have fallen under the control of Al Qaeda militants who have capitalized on the turmoil in Yemen that stems from the popular uprising that toppled longtime leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The U.S. says Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is one of the group’s most dangerous offshoots.