By Ahmed Al-Haj, The Associated Press July 4, 2012
SANAA, Yemen - Yemeni airstrikes killed three al-Qaida fighters and wounded seven in the country's south, a Yemeni military official said Wednesday. The strikes by Yemen's air force were part of an offensive against the militants.
The official said the raids targeted militants in the border between Abyan and Shabwa provinces.
Al-Qaida militants took advantage of a year of internal turmoil in Yemen that eventually led to the resignation of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh to overrun large areas of the south.
The new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has made a top priority of retaking al-Qaida's positions, and an offensive against them has had some success. Militants have taken refuge in mountainous areas after the Yemeni military drove them out of strongholds. Wednesday's air strikes targeted their new hideouts.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity according to regulations.
The U.S. has been helping Yemen in its offensive against al-Qaida, considering the Yemen branch the most dangerous of the terror group's offshoots. The U.S. targets militants with drone strikes and advises Yemen's ground forces, though it rarely acknowledges its role.
Also in Abyan province Wednesday, the accidental explosion of an artillery shell killed a civilian and wounded three soldiers and six civilians, the military said.
In Sanaa, the Interior Ministry said 14 more al-Qaida militants have been arrested over planned attacks against foreigners, security and the military. Plots were uncovered last week.
Also Wednesday, the Defence Ministry said that two army officers close to Saleh have been charged with inciting militants to blow the country's main oil pipeline. The blast on May 14 caused a severe power outage and fuel shortage. It has since been repaired.
The ministry said in a statement that Col. Jubran al-Zayedi and Maj. Washash al-Zayedi, Saleh supporters from same tribe, co-operated with criminals and soldiers in sabotaging the oil pipeline. They also blew up a natural gas pipeline nearby several times.
Yemen's oil minister estimated that the repeated attacks cost the impoverished country $2.5 billion.