SANAA, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- The Yemeni government kicked off a mass offensive on Wednesday afternoon against al-Qaida fighters who were besieged in Hota town of the southeastern province of Shabwa, a local anti-terror official said.
"The massive offensive started with a short live-air raids and a partial drop of paratroopers from the counter-terrorism units behind al-Qaida militants' lines to tighten the siege and capture key points on the suburb's roads leading into the town," the official of the special counter-terrorism units told Xinhua by phone.
"The massive offensive of tanks, army infantry, security foot soldiers and air strikes by helicopters and fighter jets will be gradually carried out," he said on condition of anonymity.
"The offensive was designed to firstly bomb al-Qaida hideouts by aircraft to flush out their snipers and fighters out of crowded houses in Hota town," he added.
A local security official confirmed to Xinhua that at least six soldiers and two al-Qaida fighters were killed in initial clashes on Wednesday morning between the troops and al-Qaida militants in the suburb of Hota.
"Two al-Qaida militants have been killed, one of whom is the son of the top al-Qaida leader Abdullah al-Mihdhar who was killed nearly seven months ago in clashes with the security forces in Hota," the official said.
"Hota town of the southeast province of Shabwa is definitely empty now of local residents who fled yesterday (Tuesday), and there will be a massive offensive including air strikes on 300 subversive terrorists who hide in the town," he added.
On Tuesday, a provincial security official told Xinhua that a combined force consisting of more than 1,500 Yemeni soldiers from counter-terrorism units, security foot soldiers and army infantry are tightening siege on the al-Qaida fighters hidden in Hota.
According to intelligence reports, as many as 200 al-Qaida militants have arrived in the town from the northeastern province of Marib and the southern province of Abyan, bringing the total number of al-Qaida fighters there to about 300, he said.
Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al-Qaida network leader Osama bin Laden, has witnessed a series of deadly attacks by al-Qaida group since late last year.
The Yemeni government has intensified security operations and air raids against terrorist groups after the Yemen-based al-Qaida wing claimed credit for an botched attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound passenger plane last December.