ADEN - Militants linked to al-Qaida beat a retreat in southern Yemen on Thursday as warplanes attacked from the sky and ground troops advanced on insurgent-held towns, killing at least six Islamist fighters, residents and local officials said.
The attacks, which showed the government is beginning to push the militants back, were part of a US-backed Yemeni army offensive against Islamist fighters who have exploited political instability to seize swathes of land in the southern Abyan province.
Witnesses said residents of the town of Lawdar, a flashpoint for fierce fighting in recent weeks, were celebrating in the streets after Islamist fighters fled the area in the direction of Shaqra, a coastal town in Abyan they still control.
A Yemeni air strike on a checkpoint in Shaqra later killed three Islamist fighters and two civilians, residents and local officials said. A second attack on a vehicle carrying militants fleeing Lawdar was also hit, killing an unknown number of people.