5 militants killed, 32 arrested in Yemen's offensive against al- Qaida
Yemeni Interior Ministry said Sunday that five al-Qaida members had been killed and 32 al-Qaida suspects arrested during a three-day military offensive in Hota town in Shabwa province, according to a statement posted on the ministry's website.
Two security soldiers were killed during the operation on Sept. 22-24, the statement said, Xinhua reported.
The country's Defense Ministry said Friday that combined forces of security and army units had cleansed Hota town of the entrenched al-Qaida militants and forced the rest to flee to surrounding mountains.
"The combined forces have launched a manhunt campaign to capture the terrorist elements who fled the town to the surrounding mountains," the statement quoted security director of Shabwa province Ahmed al-Maqdashi as saying.
On Sept. 22, the Yemeni authorities kicked off a mass offensive including air raids against al-Qaida fighters who were besieged in Hota town, a local anti-terror official told Xinhua.
According to intelligence reports, as many as 200 al-Qaida militants arrived in the town from the northeastern province of Marib and the southern province of Abyan, bringing the total number of al-Qaida fighters there up to 300, he said.
Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al-Qaida network leader Osama bin Laden, has witnessed a series of deadly attacks by the group since late last year.
Supported by Washington, Yemen's security services have intensified crackdown and air strikes on terrorist groups since the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch claimed credit for a failed attempt to blow up a U.S. passenger plane in Detroit last December.