Sanaa, May 14 (IANS): At least 28 people were killed Wednesday during clashes between the army and Al Qaeda militants in Yemen, an official said.
"The clashes erupted near the former Al Qaeda stronghold town of Azzan and lasted for a while, during which 17 terrorists and 11 soldiers were killed," the official told Xinhua.
"Fierce armed confrontations occurred after scores of the Al Qaeda militants raided an outpost of the Second Infantry Brigade near Azzan's entrance in Shabwa, killing several soldiers, including two high-ranking army officers," the official said.
Some local media outlets reported that a top aide to Yemen's defence minister was killed during Wednesday's clashes. The defence ministry has denied these reports.
An army officer in Shabwa told Xinhua that troops destroyed five vehicles belonging to the Al Qaeda suspects at the scene, and added there were high casualties among the assailants.
The Yemeni military and security forces, with US support, have recently intensified operations against suspected Al Qaeda strongholds throughout the country, killing many non-Yemeni Al Qaeda suspects.
Territories in Azzan and Mahfad, two of Al Qaeda's main bastions, have been recaptured by the army troops.
The Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is considered a major threat to the Yemeni government and neighbouring oil-rich Saudi Arabia, has vowed to hit back in Yemen's main cities, including capital Sanaa.
AQAP militants have retaliated by launching suicide car attacks and roadside bombings across the impoverished Arab country.