Yemeni troops killed 35 Al-Qaeda militants in overnight battles in the restive southern Abyan province, a military official said Thursday as the army pressed ahead with a 13-day offensive to retake extremist strongholds.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said "Al-Qaeda fighters launched an attack" on the army in the region of Wadi Bani, west of the city of Jaar that has been under militant control since last year.
The assault sparked fierce clashes that left "more than 35 militants" dead, the official said.
He said though the army was making progress in its advance on Jaar, "it was facing resistance" from the militants.
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Another military official meanwhile said clashes continued in nearby Zinjibar, the provincial capital which fell to Al-Qaeda militants last May.
"Sporadic clashes have continued," he said adding that Al-Qaeda snipers are targeting troops that have managed to take control of several buildings on the outskirts of the city.
He said two soldiers were killed and at least six others were wounded in the battle to retake Zinjibar on Thursday. Medics confirmed on the toll.
Yemeni forces launched an offensive on May 12 to capture Al-Qaeda controlled areas in Abyan.
Since the offensive began, 299 people have been killed, according to a tally compiled by AFP, including 215 Al-Qaeda fighters, 49 military personnel, 18 local militiamen and 17 civilians.
According to Western diplomats in Sanaa, US experts have been advising the Yemeni army in combat.