Al-Qaeda militants ambushed the Yemeni defence minister's motorcade as it was returning yesterday from a visit to strategic areas and a sprawling al-Qaeda base recaptured by the army, security and military officials said.
Army and security troops were engaged in fierce clashes with militants atop a hill overlooking the main road in the southern region of Mahfad.
The officials said the assailants fled, leaving three killed and two wounded, who were captured by government troops, who sustained three wounded. Yemeni forces' attacks were reportedly backed by US drone strikes targeting a major al-Qaeda base hidden in the remote mountains of Mahfad.
The officials also said troops in an army post in Meyfaa town in Shabwa province killed yesterday an al-Qaeda militant as he was attempting a suicide attack in an explosive-laden car.
The army has started to establish fixed military posts and checkpoints in areas recaptured from the militants in Mahfad, Azzan and Meyfaa to prevent them from returning from neighbouring mountainous regions to which they have fled.
In the capital, Sanaa, the Interior Ministry said two al-Qaeda militants were killed on Thursday night in clashes with security men, but their tribe, which sympathises with al-Qaeda, denied that the two belonged to the group.
In retaliation they blew up an oil pipeline in the Marib province and cut off electricity supplies to Sanaa yesterday.
The officials said that some foreign fighters, including Westerners, were among those killed or arrested in the past week's fighting. The Defence Ministry said that a militant from Dagestan called Taymour al-Dagestani was among those killed.
The official Saba news agency quoted an unnamed official as saying yesterday that two al-Qaeda members who are French nationals were arrested on Thursday while they were trying to flee the country.
Additional reporting by Reuters