Yemen continues offensive against Al Qaeda strongholds, nine killed Tuesday
Many Yemenis oppose the continued U.S. drone strikes in the country, and many have taken to the streets in recent weeks in protest as Sanaa's Al Qaeda offensive escalates (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)
Yemeni forces' recent offensive to oust Al Qaeda fighters from southern towns left at least nine people dead Tuesday, according to Agence France Presse.
Sana'a has already used air strikes to target militants in previous weeks, killing nearly 60 militants last week alone.
Yemeni forces launched Tuesday's offensive in the southern Shawba province after militants captured 15 government soldiers and destroyed three military vehicles. Four soldiers and five militants were killed in the encounter, and another six soldiers were wounded.
The military's offensive targets bases of Yemen's chapter of Al Qaeda (AQAP) which is considered by the U.S. as the most dangerous faction of the global terrorist organization.
Most of the offensive has targeted the Abyan and Shawba provinces, particularly the towns of Ahwar, Al Mahfd, Azzan, Al Houta, Al Rawda and Al Saeed.
"The campaign will not stop until these areas are purged of Al Qaeda militants," said a Yemeni official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity.
A Yemeni general also told Yemen's state Saba news agency that "This strategic aim shall not be abandoned until security and stability are restored."
More than 70 percent of AQAP members in Yemen are foreigners, according to the government, and the Qaeda chapter has used deteriorating security situations in the country to grow the size of their network in the country's southern and eastern regions.
Sana'a, in conjunction with the U.S. government, initiated massive air strikes since April 20 on alleged AQAP strongholds.
Washington has previously launched drone strikes on Yemen and has continued such actions despite increasing criticism from the global community regarding the mounting number of civilian casualties under such policies.