SANAA- Pro-government forces attacked al-Qaida militants in southern Yemen on Tuesday, killing 15 jihadis but losing 11 of their own troops, security officials said.
The fighting began when troops backed by a Saudi-led coalition attacked an al-Qaida stronghold in the Marakasha mountains in Abyan province, east of the southern city of Aden.
The area has long been a militant haven, attracting fighters in the 1990s returning from Afghanistan after fighting the Soviets. Al-Qaida later said in a statement circulated online that it had "ambushed" the troops and fought them off, the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group said.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to reporters, said more than 60 military vehicles were involved in the operation, firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades before they were repulsed.