21 dead in Yemen al Qaeda clashes

Story highlights

  • Clashes began after a government security sweep
  • The fighting lasted for nine hours
  • Fourteen militants and 7 government troops were killed

Fierce clashes between government troops and al Qaeda fighters Sunday morning in Yemen left 21 people dead, two local security officials told CNN.

The officials said clashes erupted when hundreds of troops attempted to sweep through areas around the district of Jaar, the main stronghold for al Qaeda in the southern province of Abyan.

Al Qaeda fighters fought back, kicking off clashes that continued for nine hours, the officials said. Fourteen militants and seven troops were killed in the fighting, they said.

Residents of Jaar told CNN that al Qaeda fighters were seen entering from neighboring districts Sunday after the government warned of a raid.

The residents said Yemen's air force attacked targets being used by al Qaeda as weapon storage sites.

"A deadline was given to al Qaeda in Jaar to surrender," a senior security official in Abyan told CNN on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to talk to media.

The security official said that more than 90 al Qaeda militants were killed over the past week in Abyan.

The sudden apparent government success in its fight against al Qaeda is largely due to the hundreds of local resistance fighters who joined the lines of the government last month.

Those resistance fighters successfully forced al Qaeda militants out of the strategic Lowder district late last week.

Celebrations and parades were seen in the streets of Lowder on Saturday after government forces controlled the district for the first time since last year.

"Our lands are free again and the ghost of al Qaeda is weaker then we thought. They ran away degraded from Lowder and we will follow them until they leave the entire province," said Nasser Abdul Moqhni, a local resistance fighter.

Last year, Ansaar al-Sharia, an offshoot of al Qaeda, took over the majority of districts in Abyan province, benefiting from the political turmoil in the country. Numerous military bases were evacuated making it easier for the militants groups to grow in power and territory.

      CNN recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      North Korea nuclear dream video

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photos: Faces of the world

      Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      How to fix a soccer match

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      15 biggest souvenir-buying no-no's

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.