July 1, 2012
ADEN, July 1 (Reuters) - At least two al Qaeda-linked militants were killed as U.S.-backed Yemeni forces pursued fighters driven from their southern strongholds last month, a local official said on Sunday.
Hundreds of militants from Ansar al-Sharia have been on the run since they were pushed from towns and cities they had seized during an uprising that forced President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.
Ansar al-Sharia - meaning Partisans of Islamic Law - swears allegiance to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which U.S. officials have called the most dangerous offshoot of the global militant network.
The official said the army clashed with a group of 10 militants in Dalea province late on Saturday. One was killed on the spot and one died of his wounds. The rest were captured.
Driving the Islamists from the cities of Zinjibar and Jaar was a major breakthrough in a U.S.-backed offensive aimed at ensuring stability in the wider oil-producing Gulf region.
A Yemeni military official said a U.S. training team had arrived at a base in southern Lahej province.
U.S. officials say President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi - who came to power in February as part of a power-transfer deal brokered by the United States and Gulf states - is more cooperative in the fight against al Qaeda than his predecessor.
The defence ministry said that in Azzan, one of the towns held by the militants until recently, a large cache of bombs and explosives had been made safe.