ADEN, Yemen, July 1 (Xinhua) -- A local leader of the Yemen- based al-Qaida branch was killed and nine militants were arrested during armed clashes with government troops in the southern province of al-Dhalea early Sunday, the Defense Ministry said.
The armed forces backed by pro-government tribesmen clashed with al-Qaida militants, who were attempting to sneak into al- Dhalea province, the Defense Ministry said in a brief text message obtained by Xinhua.
"A local leader of the al-Qaida was killed and two others were injured in the clashes with the government soldiers in the mountainous area of Shaeeb in Dhalea," the ministry said.
"Army troops have also captured nine members of the al-Qaida terrorist group after the shootout and foiled their infiltration attempt," security chief of al-Dhalea province Ali Hamood al-Amry was quoted as saying by the defense ministry.
However, the ministry did not mention if there were any casualties of government forces.
A government official told Xinhua anonymously that "army troops confiscated three motorcycles which have been used by the al-Qaida insurgents and seized weapons."
Combating al-Qaida militants in restive south is one of the challenges confronting Yemeni President Abdul-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has launched months-long military offensive to uproot the Yemeni branch of al-Qaida, which known locally as Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law).
The United States-backed offensive managed to expel al-Qaida militants from their major strongholds in the southern province of Abyan, recapturing its capital Zinjibar, towns like Jaar, Shakra and several villages, which they had controlled for nearly one year during the political unrest in Yemen.
The al-Qaida militants still have a strong presence in the Mahfad town and some mountainous areas in Abyan province.