ADEN, Yemen, June 13 (Xinhua) -- At least 10 members of the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch were killed when U.S. drones hit their bastions in Yemen's southeastern province of Shabwa early Wednesday, a security official told Xinhua.
The U.S. drones carried out two air strikes on bastions and checkpoints of al-Qaida militants in the insurgents-controlled town of Azzan in Shabwa province, killing at least 10 terrorists, the local security official said on condition of anonymity.
"High-ranking commanders of the al-Qaida group are believed to have been killed in the air strikes," the security official said.
"Arms depot belonging to the militants was also pounded, all equipments inside were destroyed," he added.
Witnesses confirmed the air raid to Xinhua, saying "smokes could be seen rising from an al-Qaida warehouse filled with weapons in Azzan town. Explosions also rocked the area."
Hundreds of army troops headed on Tuesday night toward Shabwa to drive the al-Qaida militants out of their controlled towns, according to an army official.
Wednesday's air bombing came just one day after the Yemeni armed forces took control of Jaar and Zinjibar, two al-Qaida strongholds in the southern province of Abyan that had been under al-Qaida control for more than a year.
The Yemeni government troops have waged an intensive military campaign since last month, with support of the United States and Yemen's oil-rich neighbor Saudi Arabia, to uproot the al-Qaida militants from the southern regions.
The Yemen-based al-Qaida wing, locally known as the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic Law), admitted leaving its major strongholds, saying that "the fighters had retreated from Zinjibar and Jaar in Abyan to avoid destruction of towns by the American-led army."
"Our fighting has not finished yet," the group said in a statement obtained by Xinhua.
On Tuesday, Yemen's defense ministry said that armed forces drove al-Qaida militants from two southern strongholds, a major victory in a U.S.-backed offensive against the terrorist group in restive south.