Yemeni Offensive on Qaida Kills 24

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A major offensive launched by Yemeni army against al-Qaida following the assassination of a top officer has killed at least 24 people, including 17 soldiers, a military official said.

"Troops backed by air forces launched a wide operation in the region of Wadi Abida," targeting al-Qaida hideouts, a military official said on condition of anonymity.

General Nasser Naji bin Farid, who commanded military forces in central Yemen, was killed Saturday in an ambush near the city of Marib, blamed by military and tribal sources on al-Qaida.

Four other officers and six soldiers were also killed in the ambush, Yemeni authorities said giving the latest death toll from the ambush.

Following the assassination of Farid, considered close to President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi, the army launched an offensive, in which 17 soldiers and seven tribesmen suspected of supporting al-Qaida were killed, the military official said. Operations continued on Tuesday, he said.

The jihadist network has increased its attacks on army and security officers, especially in the south and the east of the country, where militants are active.

Gunmen suspected of being al-Qaida militants shot dead on Tuesday the deputy chief of intelligence in the southeastern city of Mukalla.

In Daleh, also in the south, unknown gunmen on a motorbike shot dead a soldier and wounded another as they opened fire at a checkpoint, a security official told Agence France Presse.

Earlier this month, General Mahmoud al-Sobaihi, a top army commander in the south, escaped an assassination bid when gunmen opened fire on his vehicle in Huta, the capital of Lahj province.

Sobaihi's troops played a major role in an anti-Qaida offensive that ended the control in June of jihadist militants in a string of towns and cities which they had held across the south for a year.

Although weakened, the network's militants continue to launch hit-and-run attacks on members of the security forces across Yemen.

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