Al-Qaida forced to flee Yemen stronghold

June 12, 2012 at 9:20 PM

JAAR, Yemen, June 12 (UPI) -- Security officials in Yemen said the country's army has forced hundreds of militants to flee Jaar, the last al-Qaida stronghold in the southern Abyan province.

The army has retaken most of Jaar, though hundreds of militants were still fighting military forces Tuesday, CNN reported.

The Yemeni Embassy in Washington said Tuesday Yemen's military had retaken areas previously controlled by militants, including the governor's mansion in Zinjibar.

CNN said local security officials estimated more than 80 militants had been killed in the past three days in the Abyan province, including 29 Tuesday, mostly in areas surrounding Jaar and Zinjibar. Security officials said seven troops also were killed Tuesday.

Officials said thousands of landmines planted in roads and mountains leading to Jaar had slowed the government forces' progress over the past two weeks.

CNN reported hundreds of pro-government resistance fighters had joined government forces last week.

Witnesses in Jaar told the U.S. network most civilians had fled the town last week after the government warned it would attack if militants did not put down their arms.

The Yemeni government increased its offensive against al-Qaida two months ago after newly elected President Abdurabu Hadi pledged to fight the terrorist group until its members were killed or surrendered to the government.

Ansar al-Sharia, an al-Qaida offshoot, had taken over large areas of Abyan province in May of last year.

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