Militants killed in air attacks in south Yemen

August 1, 2011

At least 15 suspected al-Qaeda militants were killed and 17 others were wounded in three air strikes Monday in the restive southern Yemeni province of Abyan, security and local officials said.

There were conflicting reports about who was responsible for the strikes. Yemeni local and security officials said U.S. Predator drones hit the militants. But Reuters news service reported that Yemeni warplanes conducted at least one of the attacks, on the village of al-Khamilah.

U.S. military officials were not immediately available to comment.

The security and local officials said the first strike targeted the al-Wahdah stadium and surrounding areas. They said it destroyed military equipment that the militants seized during a June 30 battle to control the stadium in which dozens of soldiers and militants were killed.

They said the second strike hit the al-Amodiah region between Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan taken over by militants in May, and the city of Jaar. The third attack hit the al-Khamilah area, which the militants also use as a hideout.

The officials said that Naser al-Shadadi, a leading militant, was among the slain. Shadadi escaped an air strike on his house in June.

Meanwhile, five people, including two soldiers and a civilian, were killed in clashes between gunmen and the elite Republican Guard forces Monday in the northern part of Taiz, south of the capital Sanaa, security and local officials said.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that two soldiers were killed and four others wounded, blaming the opposition Islamist al-Islah party. Local officials said that two gunmen and a civilian were killed and three gunmen and six civilians were wounded.

Military aircraft were seen hovering over Taiz, witnesses said, adding that several houses were damaged in the shelling by the Republican Guard, led by President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s son, Ahmed.

Local officials said the gunmen damaged a military tank and seized another. The clashes were described as the fiercest in Taiz since May 29, when security forces broke up a protest camp. The city is a hotbed of the uprising against Saleh’s government.

Qadhi is a special correspondent. Staff writer Greg Jaffe in Washington contributed to this report.

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