US drone strikes kills 17 Al Qaeda militants in Abyan

The strikes came as the president, Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, said he would not negotiate with militants.

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SANAA // Two air strikes yesterday in south Yemen killed seven Al Qaeda militants, including two important operatives, officials said.

Yemeni soldiers, meanwhile, shelled a gathering of Al Qaeda fighters elsewhere in the south, killing 10 militants.The attacks could be another setback for Al Qaeda, coming just days after details emerged about a Saudi spy who reportedly provided information allowing the CIA to target a key leader of Yemen’s terror branch.

Yemen military officials said that the 10 militants were killed in air strikes and artillery shelling on the city of Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan, which the militants seized a year ago.

US drones were suspected in the killing of two militants in the city of Shaqrah, 70km east of Zinjibar, military and local officials said.

The Yemen air force also launched six strikes on militant strongholds near the city of Lawdar, which the militants have been trying to seize for more than a month, residents said.

A US drone was thought to have killed at least five militants in the city of Jaar, a stronghold for Al Qaeda in the south.

Meanwhile, Yemen president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi said he rejects any dialogue with Al Qaeda, a defence ministry newspaper reported yesterday.

“The only language that will be used in confronting terrorism and terrorists is that of law and military, security and popular action as these terrorist groups do not understand dialogue,” the paper quoted a government official as saying.

The aggressive statements come amid reports that the army is preparing for a big offensive to recapture Zinjibar.

* With additional reporting by the Associated Press