By Fatik al-Rodaini
SANA'A, May 10, 2012- Ansar al-Sharia, a terror group linked to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula denied on Thursday the death of Qassem al-Raemi, senior al-Qaeda commander in an American strike, confirming at the same time the news of the death of Khaldon al-Seid, another al-Qaeda leader in the American strike.
The group said on a statement posted on the Internet that five al-Qaeda militants were killed, along with Khaldoon al-Seid on Thursday in Yemen's southern province of Abyan.
''Qassem al-Raemi is alive, and he is supervisor the battles against the American and their allied,'' the statement read.
Earlier Thursday, airstrikes and mortar fire killed at least 17 al-Qaeda militants in Yemeni city of Zinjibar, in southern Yemen, where fierce clashes have been continued for more than a month by the Yemeni troops backed by tribesmen and Ansar al-Sharia.
Security officials in Yemen said Thursday's airstrikes struck the town of Jaar and northeast of Zinjibar, areas used as a base by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The first pre-dawn strike killed five militants, including a senior member of the terror network. Two more insurgents were killed in the second airstrike, including al-Qaeda's deputy commander for Lawder, a nearby town controlled by the group last year until its residents drove the militants out.
The United States has been using drones to strike al-Qaeda in Yemen. Yemeni officials said one of the raids was carried out by a drone but provided no details on the other. There was no comment from Washington on whether it was behind the raids.
Later Thursday, Yemen's Defense Ministry said ten al-Qaeda militants were killed in Zinjibar city of the southern province of Abyan.
The ministry website reported that five other al-Qaeda militants were seriously wounded in artillery shelling targeted their hideout within the province.
"The shells have also destroyed two vehicles of al-Qaeda, killing all passengers in it,'' the ministry reported.
On Monday, American officials revealed they thwarted a plot to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner with an explosive underwear device similar to one crafted for the Christmas 2009 attempt to down a Detroit-bound plane.
U.S. media reports say the man sent by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to carry out the plot was actually a double agent who had infiltrated the terror group. Saudi officials worked with the CIA to deliver the sophisticated new bomb to the U.S. government for analysis.
The operative also provided information that led to a reported drone strike Sunday that killed al-Qaeda leader Fahd al-Quso in Yemen.
He was wanted for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off the Yemeni coast. Seventeen U.S. sailors died in the blast.