SANAA // One of the top commanders in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's was killed by Yemeni government forces in the southern province of Abyan, the defence ministry said yesterday.
Ayed Al Shabwani, an Al Qaeda leader in Marib province, was killed near the town of Zinjibar, a provincial capital that militants have controlled since May. One of his cousins, Awad Al Shabwani, was also killed in the fighting on Tuesday, the defence ministry said.
Dozens of suspected Al Qaeda fighters and 10 soldiers were killed in battles on Wednesday and yesterday, a military official said. The official said that about 50 soldiers were injured in the past two days.
Government officials said that a Yemeni army brigade composed of thousands of troops had been surrounded by militants for the past two weeks.
The siege had now been broken and the army troops are launching attacks against the militants in Zinjibar, officials said.
Abdu Al Janadi, the deputy information minister, said the United States provided logistical support to help break the siege. A military official and a tribal leader said US strikes from the air and sea on militant strongholds helped change the situation in the past two days. Yemeni troops, backed by tribesmen, have been able to force militants from cities in the south such as Mudiah and Shuqrah. Witnesses said there was heavy shelling from the sea on Zinjibar and other cities in Abyan late on Wednesday.
Fighting in the south displaced 90,000, according to government officials.
Meanwhile in Taiz, a protester was killed and three others wounded yesterday when Republican Guards opened fire on protesters demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh's relatives leave the country, said medics and protest activists. They said tens of thousands of people took part in the protests.