Middle East

Raids strike al-Qaeda bases in Yemen

Yemeni militants, suspected of being members of Al-Qaeda patrol on a pick up in the restive southern city of Zinjibar in Yemen on 28 April 2012
Image caption Yemen has recently stepped up efforts to crush al-Qaeda-linked militants in the country's south

Attacks on al-Qaeda militants have killed at least nine people in the south of Yemen, officials have said.

At least one of the attacks is reported to have involved a US drone which destroyed a car parked near the target house in Azzan, in Shabwa province.

Several hundred militants are believed to have fled to the town after the nearby strongholds of Jaar and Zinjibar were recaptured by the army on Tuesday.

There were reports that as many as 30 may have been killed in the attacks.

One resident in Azzan said the explosions had been so strong that they had shaken the entire town.

According to one official quoted by Agence France Presse, there were fierce clashes between troops and militants in another town in the region, Shuqra, where some of the fighters had fled.

"Al-Qaeda is still resisting and there are battles in and around the city," the official said.

Several towns in the the southern province of Abyan have been under the control of Ansar al-Sharia - an offshoot of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula - for more than a year.

During 2011, the country was also the scene of numerous anti-government protests and separatist unrest and, in May 2012, the Yemeni army, backed by the US, began an offensive to retake the towns.

Yemen is the Arab world's most impoverished country, and has the most serious water scarcity problems in the world.

In 2011, anti-government protests led to the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, with power handed to former Vice-President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

While the protests may have died down, militant action in the country has carried on, becoming a key focus for Mr Hadi's government.