ADEN, Yemen, April 23 (Xinhua) -- A total of 13 al-Qaida terrorists were killed in overnight fighting with Yemeni army forces in the southern province of Abyan, the country's defense ministry said Monday.
Army barracks of the 39th Armored Brigade fired rockets on Sunday night into several bases of the al-Qaida terrorist group on the outskirts of Lauder town, about 150 km northeast of Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan, killing 13 militants, the ministry said in a brief statement posted on its website.
Many local leaders of the Yemen-based al-Qaida wing were killed during army offensives and intensified air raids over the past three days in Abyan province, the statement said.
Five Somalis suspected of belonging to the al-Qaida-linked al- Shabaab militant group were among the dead, a military official told Xinhua anonymously.
Yemeni air force also launched on Monday an air strike on al- Qaida strongholds around the entrances of Lauder town, the official said, with no immediate reports of casualties.
Meanwhile, a local tribal chief in Abyan confirmed to Xinhua that a Swiss woman and a Saudi diplomat who were kidnapped last month by the al-Qaida are expected to be released soon.
"Mediation efforts have so far succeed. A tribal committee received the diplomat - Abdullah al-Khaledi - Saudi Arabia's deputy consul who was abducted in Aden, along with the Swiss woman who was kidnapped on March 14 in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, " the tribal chief said on condition of anonymity.
"The al-Qaida militants handed over the two hostages to the tribal committee on Sunday and they will be released in the upcoming few hours," he said.
The al-Qaida have taken advantage of the worsening security situation in Yemen, which is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, to carry out attacks against army bases across the country's restive south.
In recent months, hundreds of militants from the Yemen-based al- Qaida branch, locally known as Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), are attempting to expand their foothold and take control over the county's southern regions where central authority has nearly no presence.