Saudi-led coalition warplanes struck Al-Qaeda positions in southern Yemen on Saturday killing several extremist fighters as government forces appeared set on a new offensive, military officials said.
Two air strikes targeted Al-Qaeda militants gathered on the outskirts of Jaar town in Abyan province, killing and wounding several militants, military officials said.
The raids came after several military meetings were held in Aden to discuss plans for a new operation against jihadists in Abyan, they added.
Government forces backed by the Arab coalition had launched an all-out offensive in March against the extremists in south Yemen, recapturing main cities.
But government troops retreated from Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan, after Al-Qaeda militants struck back.
The jihadists have been seen planting mines and explosive devices along the route linking Abyan with the southern port city of Aden, in preparation for an anticipated attack, witnesses said.
The government of UN-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi has been using Aden as a temporary capital since it was recaptured from Shiite Houthi rebels a year ago. The capital Sanaa has been under rebel control since September 2014.
The coalition intervened in March last year when the rebels closed in on Hadi’s refuge in Aden, forcing him to flee to Riyadh. But it has since turned its firepower against the Al Qaeda, who have posed a serious challenge to Hadi’s authority in the south.
Three months of talks between the government and the Iran-backed Houthis rebels in Kuwait have failed to make headway, forcing the host country to issue an ultimatum Wednesday for the warring parties to reach a deal within 15 days or leave.
Meanwhile, suspected militants of the ISIS group killed a Sunni cleric in the center of Aden on Saturday, a security official said.
A gunman stepped out of a car after dawn and shot dead cleric Ali Abdulrahman Al-Zahri in Mansura district, as he emerged from a mosque, the official said.
ISIS militants had threatened attacks against clerics they accuse of being pro-government, mainly those who denounce suicide bombings.