At least a dozen Islamic militants and two Yemeni troops died overnight as Yemen fights to wrest control of Abyan province from militants, a senior security official in the southern province told CNN Sunday.
Qasim Bin Hadi, the head of security in Zinjibar in Abyan, said that the city has turned into a ghost town and that clashes between government forces and al Qaeda militants have been nonstop the past two days.
“Bodies of dead people are everywhere in the streets,” said Bin Hadi.
Separately, more than 100 influential religious and tribal leaders said President Ali Abdullah Saleh was not able to lead the country and should step down.
In recent weeks, government troops have battled both anti-government tribal forces and Islamic militants, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Militants seized control of the town of Zinjibar several weeks ago, local people in the southern city told CNN.
Many of the deaths overnight were caused by airstrikes targeting militant hideouts in Zinjibar and Jaar, another city in the province, the security official said.
“Clashes are still continuing,” said the official, “and the government has sent hundreds of additional troops to the area in an effort to retake the province from the militants.”
The official asked not to be named because he is not authorized to talk to the media.
The official added that at least four soldiers have been injured in clashes over the past 24 hours.
Bin Hadi, the head of security in Zinjibar, said the bodies of the dead — many of them civilians — “rot in the streets of Zinjibar.
“Clashes are not in one place in the city, they are in every corner. The government is doing everything in its power to rid the province from the terrorists,” he said.
According to residents in Zinjibar, militants have succeeded in seizing a large number of heavy artillery from the government during the clashes the past two days.