Four members of the military also were killed, officials say
The violence is part of the latest push to clear the area of the terror organization
It comes the same day as John Brennan's visit to Sanaa
Government troops in southern Yemen on Sunday attacked al Qaeda hideouts, killing two dozen suspected militants in the latest push to clear the area of the terror organization, local security officials said.
Four members of the military were also killed in the clashes, which began early in the morning in the Abyan districts of Zinjibar and Jaar, the officials said, while nine troops were wounded.
Government warplanes aided in the assault.
“We succeeded in taking over three strategic posts near Jaar and our forces will continue to go forward,” said one of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Al Qaeda fighters are evacuating areas previously under their control due to the intensive government bombardment,” the official added.
Yemen’s government has been fighting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula for years with mixed results.
Suspected al Qaeda militants seized Abyan last year during Yemen’s political stalemate after government troops evacuated most military posts in the province.
Recently, the government sent thousands of troops to Abyan in its latest assault against the militants, vowing not to retreat until al Qaeda is defeated.
The clashes took place the same day White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan met with President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi in Sanaa.
The two discussed efforts to eradicate al Qaeda and build a “modern civil state,” according to a statement from the Yemeni Embassy in Washington.
Brennan also met with major military figures to discuss training, equipment assistance and the sharing of information, it said.
On Saturday, a pair of U.S. drone strikes killed 11 suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen’s Mareb province.
The strikes occurred nearly a week after a senior operative of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was killed by a CIA drone strike and less than three weeks after a Yemeni-linked terror plot to bring down a U.S.-bound jetliner was foiled.
Fahd al Quso, 37, was killed while riding in a vehicle in the Rafdh district in Shabwa province a week ago Sunday, according to officials.
Al Quso was indicted by a federal grand jury in New York in 2003 on 50 counts of terrorism offenses for his role in the October 12, 2000, bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen. The bombing killed 17 U.S. sailors.
The terror plot revealed last week has been described by U.S. officials as involving a device that is an evolution of the bomb smuggled aboard a U.S.-bound plane on Christmas Day 2009 by a young Nigerian, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab.
The device originated in Yemen and was brought to authorities’ attention by a mole who infiltrated al Qaeda, a source in the region told CNN. The man works for Saudi intelligence, which has cooperated with the CIA for years, the source said. Information from the mole also led to the drone strike against al Quso.