By Fatik al-Rodaini
SANA'A, April 20, 2012- Yemen's Defense Ministry said on its website that at least 41 al-Qaeda militants were killed during Thursday and Friday in the Yemeni southern city of Lawder.
On Friday at least nine al-Qaeda militants were killed in two air raids conducted by Yemeni airstrikes in Yemen's southern province of Abyan. Local tribal sources stated that five armed militants were killed in one of the Yemeni air force attacks and four in another near Lawder city.
The Defense's website reported that 18 al-Qaeda militants were killed on Thursday while tens of militants were wounded during clashes between Yemeni troops backed by tribesmen and al-Qaeda militants in southern Yemen's restive Abyan province. Moreover, 14 al-Qaeda militants were killed east Lawder city during an attack by Yemeni troops on two positions of al-Qaeda hideouts on Thursday evening.
''At least two Yemeni soldiers were killed and 7 others were wounded in the clashes,'' the ministry mentioned.
The Defense Ministry said that Yemeni troops pushed back Ansar al-Sharia fighters from several positions near Zinjibar, their stronghold and the capital of Abyan province.
More than 222 people including 183 militants have been killed in consecutive clashes around the strategic south Yemen town of Lawder in battles between Yemeni troops backed by tribesmen and Ansar Al-Sharea, an Islamist group linked to al-Qaeda in the Yemen's southern province of Abyan.
According to experts, al-Qaeda determined to capture the south Yemeni town of Lawdar in a bid to build itself a secure base in the Arabian Peninsula.
Lawdar district is located between three provinces gives it strategic importance, and it can also provide a safe haven from bombardment from the sea, experts say, adding that the militant group is seeking to extend its influence across the region.
The group seized control of a significant amount of territory in Abyan during the turmoil that led to the replacement of President Ali Abdullah Saleh by his deputy.
The conflict with the fighters in the south is only one of several challenges facing the new president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who took office in February vowing to fight al-Qaeda.
The Saudi Arabia and the United States hope the political deal will prevent al-Qaeda from getting a foothold near oil shipping routes.