ADEN: Al-Qaeda militants have withdrawn from the southern Yemen town of Jaar after the army intensified its offensive to regain control of areas seized by the jihadists, witnesses said on Tuesday.
The militants who had controlled the town in the restive Abyan province for more than a year, pulled out during the night towards nearby Shuqra, "after fighting with the army became fiercer," one resident told AFP.
Locals said they saw vehicles carrying militants, weapons and furniture heading east towards Shuqra, where many of the Al-Qaeda leadership are believed to be holed up. The militants distributed pamphlets in the town apologising to residents for dragging Jaar into a conflict with the army and for the damage caused by the fighting, according to locals.
Army troops have not however immediately advanced into Jaar and on Tuesday morning remained some two kilometres (1.3 miles) out of town, locals said.
Yemeni forces launched an all-out offensive on May 12 aimed at reclaiming towns and cities lost to Al-Qaeda over the past year, including Abyan's capital Zinjibar. Since the offensive began, 485 people have been killed, according to an AFP tally combined from different sources. This includes 368 Al-Qaeda militants, 72 soldiers, 26 local armed men and 19 civilians.