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Report: 5 suspected militants, 2 soldiers killed in Yemeni offensive

From Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN
  • Yemen has launched a campaign against al Qaeda in the region
  • Security sources say civilians were used by suspected militants as human shields
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claims responsibility for numerous attacks

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) -- Seven people were killed and 32 suspected militants were arrested in Yemen during a military offensive touted by the government as part of an intensified hunt for terrorists, the state-run news agency reported Sunday, citing security sources.

Five of the dead were members of al Qaeda, the Saba News Agency said, adding that two Yemeni soldiers were also killed.

Military sources had previously told CNN four soldiers were killed and three wounded in clashes between the country's security forces and suspected militants in the southern Shabwa province.

Rights groups have voiced concern about the operation. Human Rights Watch said the Yemeni Red Crescent was estimating that the fighting had displaced as many as 12,000 people from their homes.

Civilians were used as human shields by suspected militants, who restricted their movements during the attack, the Saba News Agency reported.

It also said the military seized a bomb-laden car that militants had planned to use to carry out a suicide attack.

The government has been fighting a growing al Qaeda element in Yemen called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which grabbed the attention of the West with the attempted bombing of a trans-Atlantic flight as it landed in Detroit, Michigan, on December 25.

The suspect, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, who has pleaded not guilty to six federal terrorism charges, was reportedly trained and armed in Yemen.

Since its inception in January 2009, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks against Saudi, Korean, Yemeni and U.S. targets.

Yemen's Interior Ministry has circulated photographs and the names of eight people it says are on its most-wanted list, Saba reported.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader and Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who is believed to have prepared AbdulMutallab for his operation, remains at large.