World Bulletin/News Desk
At least 22 al Qaeda-linked fighters and 12 Yemeni soldiers were killed in clashes and air strikes overnight during a U.S.-backed offensive in the south of the country, officials said on Saturday.
Fighting erupted late on Friday and carried on into Saturday on the outskirts of the southern city of Jaar, held by Islamist fighters.
Government troops, backed by U.S. drone strikes, have been trying to push the fighters out of strongholds in the country's south, which lies near oil shipping routes through the Red Sea.
"There is heavy fighting, and the armed elements are doing everything possible to stop the advance of (government) troops," a government official told Reuters, on condition of anonymity.
Government forces were about 1km (0.6 mile) from Jaar, he added.
Twelve Yemeni soldiers and 17 fighters were killed in the fighting and an air strike killed three fighters on the outskirts of the city, the official said.
Another air strike destroyed a vehicle allegedly used by fighters, killing two people inside in the southern province of Bayda, provincial governor Mohammed al-Ameri was quoted as saying on a defence ministry website.
On Saturday, the head of the U.S. Special Operations Forces met Yemen's chief of staff and said the United States was committed to supporting Yemen, the state news agency Saba reported.
General Ken Tovo said the United States "was prepared to provide all necessary assistance to Yemen in fighting terrorism and ensuring the elimination of al Qaeda", the agency said.
Tovo's visit to Yemen followed a trip to the country by FBI director Robert Mueller in April.
On Friday, an army official and residents said troops backed by local tribesmen had killed 10 suspected fighters outside Jaar.Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Mayıs 2012, 12:02