ADEN, Yemen: Yemeni government forces waging an offensive against Al-Qaeda pushed into a militant stronghold in the south after insurgents blew up a government building there with some then withdrawing, the Defesce Ministry said Tuesday.
Since 2012, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's main Yemen base has been in the mountainous al-Mahfad area of Abyan province where militants had fled after the army, with U.S. help, drove them from towns they seized during a chaotic national uprising in 2011.
Major powers are keen on Yemen curbing Islamist insurgents and restoring order in the south to prevent threats to No. 1 oil exporter Saudi Arabia next door and the risk of Yemen being used as a springboard for attacks on Western targets.
The Defence Ministry's website quoted an official military source as saying soldiers and allied tribal militias known as popular committees had crossed into al-Mahfad.
"The source said Al-Qaeda elements blew up the government building in Al-Mahfad," the Defense Ministry cited the source as saying, and some militants had fled the area afterwards.
The Yemeni army is waging a concerted offensive against insurgents in some of the most impenetrable regions of the Arabian Peninsula state.
The offensive follows a series of air strikes, including by U.S. drones, against insurgent bastions that killed some 65 fighters. Last week a Yemeni official and tribal source confirmed the killing of the head of the AQAP cell in Al-Mahfad.