Yemen says it has killed 12 Al Qaeda-linked militants in the country’s restive southern region, while insurgents reported killing seven troops in the same battle.
The news comes a day after insurgents from the same rebel group in the town of Jaar freed 73 soldiers captured in fighting in southern Yemen following mediation by religious scholars and tribal elders, and two days after three suspected militants were killed in an air strike while driving in the northern province of Al-Jawf, the Agence France Presse reports.
According to Reuters, soldiers backed by tribal fighters killed eight militants Monday outside the town of Lawdar, where clashes have been a frequent occurrence in recent weeks. An air force plane bombed a nearby vehicle, killing four militants inside.
A local government official said one solider and a tribal fighter died in the fighting, a casualty count that did not tally with that reported by the Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) group, which said in a statement that its fighters had killed seven soldiers and wounded 27 tribesman.
More from GlobalPost: Al Qaeda in Yemen releases 73 soldiers
Militants linked to Al Qaeda’s Yemeni franchise (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP) have exploited a security vacuum in Yemen’s southern and eastern regions following months of protests against ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The fighters intensified their attacks on the security forces after President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi took office in February and vowed to hunt down the militants.
On Monday the UN’s envoy to Yemen, Jamal bin Omar, met with Saleh to press him to stop meddling in the country’s affairs, the Associated Press reports.
Saleh has been accused of obstructing the new president’s efforts to purge loyalists to the old regime from security agencies. Monday’s meeting came after Saleh’s son – who commands the powerful Special Forces and Republican Guard – defied Hadi’s orders and appointed a relative to a new security unit.
In a separate development Monday, AQAP confirmed the death of top militant commander Mohammed Al-Umda in an airstrike a week ago in a remote desert region of southern Yemen.
US officials said the airstrike was carried out by a CIA drone, according to ABC News.
More from GlobalPost: Yemen - where Al Qaeda rules