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Officials: Yemen forces target militant hideouts, killing 36

From Hakim Almasmari, For CNN
updated 8:47 AM EST, Sat March 10, 2012
Yemeni General Ali Salah visits soldiers in Yemen's restive Abayan province on March 6, 2012.
Yemeni General Ali Salah visits soldiers in Yemen's restive Abayan province on March 6, 2012.
  • NEW: Second round of airstrikes also kills 18
  • The first incident occurs in southeast Yemen
  • "We are trying to eliminate their presence," official says

(CNN) -- Yemeni air forces targeted militant hideouts in the south, killing at least 18 suspected al Qaeda insurgents, security officials said Saturday.

In a separate action, 18 additional militants were killed in airstrikes, officials said.

The first airstrikes occurred in the Yemen province of al-Baitha in areas used as launching pads for militant attacks, the officials said.

"Al Qaeda is trying to build a stronghold in al-Baitha and it is in the beginning stages. We are trying to eliminate their presence while it is still possible and easy," one of the officials said.

Both officials did not want to be named because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

Smoke from the air raids covered the skies of al-Baitha hours after the attack. Security forces also formed new checkpoints in nearby districts.

Residents said military aircraft roam the skies of the province around the clock.

In a separate action, the air force carried out five airstrikes in the towns of Jaar and Zinjibar in Abyan province, killing 18 suspected Ansar al-Sharia militants, Yemeni security officials toldf CNN.

The attacks targeted caches of weapons and equipment seized by the militants earlier this week, the officials said.

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