By Fatik al-Rodaini
SANA'A, April 18, 2012- At least 6 Al-Qaeda militants were killed on Wednesday along with a civilian in Yemen's southern province of Abyan where swaths of towns are controlled by the militant group, Ansar al-Sharia, an offshoot of al-Qaeda.
Yemen's Defense Ministry said that two air strikes hit Lawder city, a Yemen's strategically important town located around 150 kilometers North-East of Zinjibar, the capital of the Southern province of Abyan, where fierce clashes took place between militants linked to al-Qaeda and Yemeni troops backed by tribesmen one week ago.
Witnesses reported that one of the victims was a civilian and two more people remained wounded during a mortar shelling by government troops that took place at the same time as the air strikes.
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 month’s 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.