The Yemeni army has continued to gain ground against Al Qaeda fighters in the south, as its offensive left at least 144 dead in five days, including 98 Islamist fighters, 20 soldiers and 16 civilians, according to a report compiled from various sources.
By late afternoon, the Yemeni air force launched two air strikes targeting al-Qaeda positions near Loder, a city of Abyan province, killing 16 gunmen and wounding 14, according to a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees. The soldiers, estimated by a military source at about 20,000 after the arrival of reinforcements, have been attempting to regain control of the cities of Zinjibar and Jaar in the province of Abyan, held by al Qaeda since 2011.
The offensive began on May 12 and is the largest carried out against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which operates under the name of "Supporters of Sharia" in southern Yemen. The offensive follows a commitment made by the new Yemeni president, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, to combat extremist network.
According to Western diplomats in Sanaa, U.S. experts advise the army in these battles, and some of them are deployed in the air base of al-Anad , near the area of the battles. U.S. drones have also targeted members of Al Qaeda in recent days in the south and east, while eyewitnesses reported the participation of U.S. naval units in the attacks. This participation could not be confirmed from official sources.
Parallel to this military support, U.S. President Barack Obama signed a decree imposing sanctions against individuals and entities that threaten the stability of Yemen. "This decree will allow the U.S. to take action against those trying to undermine the transition of power in Yemen," said spokesman Jay Carney. "The president took this action because he thinks that the legitimate aspirations of Yemenis, in addition to humanitarian and security problems are urgent," he added. The decree signed by Obama introduces sanctions such as seizure of property in the United States, but does not name individuals or entities.