Yemen: 35 al-Qaida militants killed in clashes

May 24, 2012 - 12:17 PM

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's military launched an attack Thursday on an al-Qaida hideout in the country's south as part of a wider offensive, killing 35 militants, the Defense Ministry said.

The attack came four days after al-Qaida claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on a military parade rehearsal in the capital, Sanaa. The bombing killed 96 Yemeni soldiers. Funerals for 67 of the soldiers were held on Thursday.

The Defense Ministry said that in its attack, the Yemeni military took control of Wadi Banaa Arab, near the town of Jaar, another al-Qaida stronghold.

Since May 12, Yemen's military has been pushing an offensive against al-Qaida, aiming to uproot the militants from territory they overran during more than a year of internal political turmoil in Yemen. Casualties have been high on both sides.

Troops backed by warplanes and artillery, as well as armed tribesmen, battled al-Qaida militants, mainly in Abyan province in the south, aiming at regaining control over the provincial capital, Zinjibar.

Yemen's al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is considered one of the group's most dangerous branches. The impoverished country was the launching pad for three foiled al-Qaida attacks on U.S. targets.

The United States has thrown its support behind Yemen's new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has vowed to combat al-Qaida as a top priority.

On Thursday, a U.S. Congressional delegation met with Hadi in Sanaa, according to a statement issued by Hadi's office.

Yemen's longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in February as part of a U.S. backed power transfer deal that gave him immunity from prosecution in return for relinquishing power.