ADEN, Yemen, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- About 15 al-Qaida militants, including two senior commanders, were captured and several others killed during military operations by Yemeni forces to reclaim the southern villages, army officials told Xinhua Thursday.
The anti-terror operations, backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), were launched Wednesday to evict militants and recapture a number of al-Qaida-controlled villages in the southern province of Abyan, according to local sources. Some villages have been liberated and the militants fled.
Those militants arrested in Abyan were moved to the neighboring southern province of Aden for more investigations under the supervision of anti-terror experts, the military source said.
The Yemeni troops continued their battles against al-Qaida militants in Abyan's area of Wadea and Marakishah mountains, with casualties reported from both battlefields.
Earlier in the day, some families left their home in Abyan and refused to return until the area is completely safe and secure from al-Qaida militants' threats.
Military intelligence sources said that more UAE Apaches had left Aden's airbase for Abyan province to support the existing troops.
Meanwhile, local residents in Abyan told Xinhua that they found the wreckage of a Saudi warplane and the pilot's body in Jahin area after it crashed into a mountain Wednesday night.
The Saudi warplane has been participating in the military operations and launched airstrikes to cover ground troops, according to Yemeni sources.
Yemeni government forces and the UAE armed forces in the southern province of Aden have launched a new anti-terror military offensive "to root out al-Qaida militants from their strongholds in neighboring southern province of Abyan."
Thousands of newly-recruited southern soldiers joined the campaign after receiving military training and financial support from the UAE forces.
The Yemen-based al-Qaida branch has exploited years of deadly conflicts between Yemen's government and Houthi rebels to expand its presence, especially in Shabwa and Abyan provinces.
Yemen's government, allied with a Saudi-led Arab military coalition, has for years been battling Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels for control of the impoverished country.
UN statistics showed that more than 8,000 people have been killed in Yemen's conflict, most of them civilians, since the Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict in 2015.
The impoverished Arab country is also suffering the world's largest cholera outbreak, where about 5,000 cases are reported every day.