Aden: Suspected Al-Qaeda fighters were fleeing the embattled city of Loder in southern Yemen following gunbattles and an assault by government forces in which dozens have died, the interior ministry said Tuesday.
In the latest fighting, "Four Al-Qaeda members were
killed while the rest fled after evacuating their injured," a
ministry statement said.
"The chiefs of the terrorist elements have started to
flee" Loder, the ministry said.
Civilians had hurried out of the southern city in the
restive Abyan province in the wake of an army siege that
followed clashes which began on Friday.
An army search of homes where the militants were
barricaded had found a large stash of weapons, including
rockets and anti-tank weapons, the ministry said.
At least 33 people, among them 11 soldiers, 19
suspected militants and three civilians, have been killed
since the clashes erupted, according to an AFP count based on
official and medical sources.
Authorities said Adel Saleh Hardaba, 27, whom they
described as the Al-Qaeda second-in-command in Loder, was
among the dead.
Witnesses said the fighting had intensified after
Sunday night, when an ultimatum to militants to surrender had
The army had distributed pamphlets urging any
civilians left in Loder, which has a population of 80,000, to
Security officials had told AFP at the weekend that
civilians had mostly fled the city and that "only gunmen are
left." Many of the militants were believed to be foreigners,
notably Saudis and Pakistanis.
South Yemen, and Abyan province in particular, is
feared to have become a base for Al-Qaeda militants to regroup
under the network`s local franchise, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian