- Five al Qaeda militants are shelled and killed in their hideouts, defense official says
- Two other militants are injured but successfully flee
- Islamic Eid holiday is no day of rest for Yemen forces
Five suspected al Qaeda militants were killed in clashes Friday night in Yemen's southern Abyan province, a senior Defense Ministry official told CNN.
The official, who is not authorized to talk to media, said that the government's 25th Brigade in Zinjibar shelled hideouts used by militants as a base to launch attacks against security forces.
The official said that two other militants were injured but were able to flee.
"We were expecting the militants to make a move soon. The terror militants thought that because of the Islamic Eid holiday we would not be on alert," the official said. He was referring to the Ed Al-Adha holiday celebrated at the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
The official said that "the militants are getting weaker by the day, and more lands and areas are back under government control."
The clashes lasted for more than two hours.
Eyewitnesses in Zinjibar confirmed to CNN the death of the militants.
One of them was suspected to be a foreigner, witnesses said.
The Defense Ministry could not confirm to CNN that foreigners were among the killed.
Meanwhile, in Dofas, another district in Abyan, eyewitnesses said that clashes with militants took place Saturday afternoon. No confirmation on casualties was reported.
Clashes in Abyan have been ongoing on a daily basis since May, when militants took over the majority of the province and announced it an Islamic emirate.
More than 100,000 residents of Abyan are still displaced in neighboring Aden province and have said they would not return until it is freed from the militants.
"We want to go back to Abyan, but we also want to live. It's still not safe, and the government is not moving as quick as we expected," said Ameena Nagi, a mother of three, who was taking shelter in an Aden school.