SANAA, Sep. 1 (Xinhua) -- Yemeni army forces on Thursday captured the main entrances of southern city Zinjibar, which was held by al-Qaida militants, and advanced towards the downtown area following fierce battles that killed nine militants and six soldiers, a local security official said.
"Amid full-scale offensive, the troops seized back the main entrances of Zinjibar and began to advance into the city, while the al-Qaida militants started to withdraw towards neighboring Shaqra city, some 47 km to the east of Zinjibar," the official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
"Nine militants were confirmed killed, while another large number of injured were removed from the front line by their al- Qaida fellows," he said, "Also, a military officer and about five soldiers were killed in the battles."
Zinjibar, capital city of the southern province of Abyan, was seized by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in late May. The group later took over the cities of Jaar, Shaqra, and part of Dovis and Modia in Abyan, some 480 km south of the country's capital Sanaa.
On Tuesday, Yemeni Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Ahmed survived an assassination attempt while he was inspecting forces in the front line near Zinjibar, but three of his guards were killed, according to a local security official.
A source close to the AQAP claimed on Thursday that the terrorist group was "behind the assassination attempt against the minister."