The military in Yemen, supported by U.S. forces and unmanned aerial drones, is pushing toward the south of the country in an effort to uproot al-Qaida.
Yemeni forces are fighting near Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, al-Jazeera reports. Yemeni military officials last month said some progress was made in Abyan, though Peter Neumann, a scholar at King's College in London, told al-Jazeera the military is fighting an unconventional war.
"All these people, whilst being al-Qaida, are also anti-government, and it is often not so easy to distinguish between the two because al-Qaida is so immersed in tribal structures in the south of Yemen," he said. "It has become virtually indistinguishable from a normal insurgent force."
Yemeni Col. Ali Radman Qahtan told the Arab broadcaster that al-Qaida supporters are able to exploit their native terrain.
"The biggest challenge we face is that al-Qaida fighters are constantly on the move in small numbers, they never hold out in one place," he said.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaida's branch in Yemen, has emerged as a major security concern since former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh resigned early this year.