Sanaa: Yemeni warplanes and troops backed by heavy artillery waged a four-front assault on al-Qaida militants on Tuesday, trying to uproot their hold in the south in an offensive Yemeni officials said was for the first time being directly guided by American troops at a nearby airbase.
The central US role in the operation would be a significant stepping up of American-Yemeni cooperation against al-Qaida's branch here, which is accused of a string of attempted attacks against the United States.
The offencive appeared to mark an increased determination to break the hold of al-Qaida in the south, where militants have controlled several towns for nearly a year, including the provincial capital of Zinjibar.
Fierce battles continued overnight and today early morning inside Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province.
Yemen's ill-equipped and poorly trained military has stumbled repeatedly in trying to fight al-Qaida ever since the militants seized territory during the political turmoil surrounding last year's uprising that led to the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
But since Saleh's resignation in February, his successor, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has vowed to make the fight against al-Qaida a top priority. The effort is supported by the US, which considers al-Qaida's offshoot in Yemen the network's most active.
On Sunday, the White House's top counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, met with Hadi in the capital Sanaa.

Hadi's office later said the Yemeni leader briefed Brennan on the army's progress in the south, which Defense Mohammed Nasser Ahmed described as the "final decisive battle against al-Qaida."
Several Yemeni military officials told The Associated Press today that unlike previous, failed offensives against al-Qaida, this time the United States was providing direct logistical support to the Yemeni military.
The officials said an airbase called al-Annad in the southern province of Lahj is serving as a command center where nearly 60 US troops are helping advise the Yemenis. They also said the Americans were providing information and logistical support to Yemeni troops.
The Yemeni military officials, who are familiar with the workings of the army in the south, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the highly sensitive cooperation. The US Embassy in Sanaa could not be reached for comment.


Latest News from World News desk