Yemen hunts Qaeda fighters in south: 37 people killed in 48 hours

Islamists have been exploiting political vacuum

ADEN (Yemen) - Thirty-seven people, most of them suspected Al-Qaeda fighters, were killed over the past 48 hours in violence across Yemen's restive south, local and military officials said Thursday.
"The bodies of 29 Al-Qaeda militants were killed in (army) shelling" on their hideouts north and northeast of the southern city of Zinjibar, and buried in the nearby town of Jaar, a local official said.
The Islamist militants came under fire from the Gulf of Aden and ground locations, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The shelling began on Tuesday and intensified Thursday, with some missiles apparently "coming from the sea," one witness said.
A military official said that a soldier was killed and four others wounded late Wednesday during clashes with extremists who have declared themselves as Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), near Zinjibar, which they took over in May.
In Huta, capital of the southern province Lahij, the army opened fire early Thursday on a car which did not stop at a checkpoint there killing a child and wounding his mother, security officials said.
Following the incident, Al-Qaeda suspects attacked soldiers at the checkpoint wounding two, they said.
Further east in Hadramawt, five other extremists were killed in clashes with an army unit, a military official said.
The clashes took place a day after suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen killed an intelligence officer by cutting his throat after kidnapping him at Hadramawt's capital Mukalla, according to a police official.
"Commander Faraj Saeed al-Odsani was snatched (Wednesday) afternoon from a road near Mukalla airport by Al-Qaeda gunmen who drove him towards the nearby province of Shabwa," an Al-Qaeda stronghold, the official said.
Security forces chased the kidnappers and traded gunfire as they fled, said the official, who added that a policeman was wounded and the extremists' car was damaged in the exchanges.
"The Al-Qaeda militants escaped into nearby farms while the commander was found with his throat cut in the car, which they abandoned," he said.
A military official confirmed that "Al-Qaeda militants" had killed a kidnapped intelligence officer by cutting his throat.
The Islamists have exploited the weakening central government in Sanaa to strengthen their presence in Yemen, launching deadly attacks against security forces especially across the restive south and southeast.
The United States says the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, is the most active branch of the global extremist network.