Toll in southern Yemen anti-Qaeda offensive rises to 44

At least 44 people were killed in southern Yemen on Tuesday as the army pounded the Al-Qaeda stronghold of Jaar and clashes between jihadists and troops backed by local militias raged nearby, sources said.

Twenty-five Islamist militants were among the dead, 13 killed in air raids on Jaar and 12 in battles raging around Loder, another town in restive Abyan province, local and tribal sources said.

In the air raids on Jaar, twelve civilians were also mistakenly killed, while two soldiers and five armed residents died in Loder, witnesses and military sources said.
The number of people killed in both towns on Tuesday has risen sharply, with several sources giving an earlier toll of 24.

Yemeni forces at the weekend launched a multi-pronged assault aimed at recapturing Al-Qaeda-held towns and cities across Abyan, including its capital Zinjibar.

Tribal sources said on Monday that battles in the south had seen 37 militants killed in two days, but AFP could not independently verify the toll.

A military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that 12 soldiers have been killed since the operation was launched on Saturday. But the defence ministry news website 26sep.net put the toll at six dead.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon