JAAR, Yemen // Yemen yesterday pushed ahead with an offensive that aims to drive Al Qaeda-linked insurgents from the south, a day after the army notched up its biggest victory in more than a year by recapturing two strategic cities.
Three air strikes targeted areas held by militants in and outside of the town of Azzan, killing at least 30 fighters and wounding dozens more, said Colonel Ahmed Al Maqdashi, the head of security in Shabwa province.
The attacks appeared to underscore the army's determination to press home its advantage after recapturing the cities of Jaar and Zinjibar on Tuesday, forcing hundreds of fighters to flee.
It was not immediately clear whether yesterday's strikes were carried out by Yemeni warplanes or US drones. One local official in Azzan said at least one strike was by a drone. Washington has repeatedly used these to target Yemeni militants in a bid to contain a threat it has been urging the government to take more seriously.
Ansar Al Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Yemen, said that US drones had been used in five attacks in Azzan yesterday morning. It denied that any of its fighters had been killed or wounded.
The recapture of Jaar and Zinjibar was the army's most significant victory against the militants in more than a year of political turmoil that has taken Yemen to the brink of civil war and fuelled fears about Al Qaeda's presence.
Some residents of the two wrecked cities began to return to their homes yesterday. Emboldened by waning government control over during last year's protests that removed President Ali Abdullah Saleh, militants seized Jaar in March 2011, before occupying Zinjibar and the coastal town of Shaqra.