Yemeni Jets Attack Islamic Militants, Killing at Least Three

Posted June 10th, 2011 at 7:05 am (UTC-5)
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Officials in Yemen say an air raid on suspected Islamic militants in the southern part of the country has killed at least three people.

Few details of the attack near the town of Jaar were immediately available. One official told the French News Agency the strike killed three relatives of an al-Qaida militant.

Suspected al-Qaida gunmen last month seized the nearby city of Zinjibar after fighting in which scores of soldiers were killed. But troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh have launched a counter-attack to try to regain control of the city.

In a separate incident, suspected separatists in southern Yemen attacked a military checkpoint. At least three Yemeni soldiers and two militants were killed in the skirmish.

The renewed fighting came as Yemen braced for rival protests supporting and opposing Mr. Saleh's shaky hold on power. Officials report he has been moved out of intensive care at the Saudi military hospital where he is being treated for wounds suffered in last week's attack on his compound.

Saudi and Yemeni officials in Riyadh said Thursday that Mr. Saleh's condition had stabilized and that he would have cosmetic surgery in the coming days.

The embattled leader has not been seen since he was flown for medical treatment to Saudi Arabia.

U.S. and Yemeni officials say Mr. Saleh's wounds from the bomb attack at the presidential compound are far more severe than first disclosed, raising doubts about his return to power. But a Yemeni government website said Thursday his injuries were minor and announced that preparations for his return were under way.

Army units and loyalists in many areas of the capital, Sana'a, fired shots in the air in celebration and Yemen's ruling party said it will organize a “Friday of Loyalty” demonstration. Anti-government protesters also called supporters to take to the streets.

Authorities said government troops have killed at least 12 suspected al-Qaida members in southern Abyan province as the nation struggles with a militant Islamist insurgency in the wake of Mr. Saleh's departure.

Nearly 400 people have been killed since a popular uprising against Mr. Saleh began in January.