ADEN, Yemen, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- Warplanes of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Friday morning continued striking members of the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch in southern Yemen, a military official told Xinhua.
The military official, who asked to remain anonymous, said that "senior commanders of the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) started mobilizing their fighters particularly in the mountainous areas of the southern Abyan province."
"The AQAP members attempted to exploit the chaotic acts happening in the key southern regions and began deploying their fighters in and around strategic areas," said the Yemeni official.
He said that "the UAE intervened through carrying out airstrikes as an intelligence tip-off confirmed terrorist elements' activities in Abyan's mountainous areas and Shuqrah city."
A number of moving vehicles carrying AQAP members were precisely targeted by the UAE near Shuqrah, according to the Abyan-based military official.
Another source of the local security authority in the southern port city of Aden told Xinhua that "a number of AQAP militants were killed during airstrikes launched by the UAE near Aden's outskirts on Thursday morning."
The source said that "some of the AQAP local commanders named as Abu Baraa Baidhani and Al-Khader Judeeb were within the armed convoy struck by UAE airstrikes near the eastern outskirts of Aden."
Several charred bodies of the newly-recruited members of AQAP were left scattered in the deserted area near Aden's outskirts, the source said anonymously.
However, Yemen's Defense Ministry on Thursday blasted the UAE, which is a key partner in the Saudi-led coalition supporting the government against the northern-based Houthis, for launching "airstrikes that killed and injured about 300 Yemeni government soldiers."
"The Defence Ministry condemned the UAE aerial bombardment launched against the legitimate government in Aden's outskirts and Zinjibar city of neighboring southern Abyan province," the ministry said in a press statement released by the state-run Saba news agency.
On Thursday, the UAE affirmed its right of self-defense against all threats targeting the Arab coalition forces in Yemen, asserted the UAE's foreign ministry in a statement on Thursday.
"The recent aggravation in offensives against the Arab coalition forces and civilians poses a menacing threat to the security of the coalition. This in turn has necessitated airstrikes against terrorist militias as per the international humanitarian law," said the statement.
The military operation was based on "confirmed field intelligence" that the militias prepared to target the coalition forces, a development which required "preemptive operation to avert any military threat," the UAE statement added.
Intense battles have broken out between the forces of the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC), which are nominal allies within the Saudi-led coalition to fight the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, around Aden since earlier the month.
A high-ranking official of the Aden-based STC told Xinhua by phone that "al-Qaida militants took it as an opportunity and engaged in the fighting with the forces of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islah party against the southern forces."
He said that "the STC forces in cooperation with the UAE had played a vital role in expelling al-Qaida militants from different southern areas during the past period, but now there are attempts to alienate that southern forces."
The STC forces completely controlled Aden after aborting a large-scale military operation launched on Wednesday by the Yemeni government to retake the strategic southern city.
Considered as Yemen's temporary capital, Aden is where the Saudi-backed Yemeni government has based itself since 2015.
The impoverished Arab country has been locked in a civil war since late 2014, when the Houthis overran much of the country and seized all northern provinces including the capital Sanaa.