SANAA/ADEN, Yemen: Yemeni warplanes mistakenly killed five civilians in raids on suspected militant strongholds in the country’s volatile south, a military official said, in a series of strikes Monday targeting elements thought to belong to Al-Qaeda.
At least 24 people – civilians and militants – were killed in the raids on various sites in the province of Abyan, where the army is waging an offensive against militants emboldened by months of upheaval in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state.
The botched airstrike on the city of Jaar in Abyan targeted a building thought to be hiding militants, but killed five civilians and injured three, the official said.
Warplanes also bombed Jaar hospital which militants had occupied to treat their wounded comrades, a local official said. A witness said he saw the bodies of seven militants being carried out of the building for burial.
Militants have seized several towns in Abyan, situated just east of a strategic shipping strait.
A security official said at least 10 people believed to belong to Al-Qaeda were killed in an overnight air raid on a suburb of Abyan’s capital Zinjibar, which was seized by militants in May.
Further south, two more militants were killed in airstrikes on the coastal town of Shaqra, which was taken over in recent weeks despite reports from the army that it was making gains against the militants.
Yemen is mired in armed violence as a political standoff between President Ali Abdullah Saleh and opponents to his 33-year rule drags into its seventh month. Saleh is now in Saudi Arabia, where he sought medical treatment after being injured in a June assassination attempt.
An official from Yemen’s ruling party said Monday that the party is set to meet to discuss a U.N.-proposed road map for Saleh to hand over power to his deputy.
“The general committee of the General People’s Congress will meet within the next few days to discuss the roadmap,” in line with a call from Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, the official said, requesting anonymity.
The U.N. road map was drawn up in two weeks of talks in July held by U.N. envoy Jamal Benomar in Yemen with the opposition and leading figures of the GPC, according to opposition sources and a Western diplomat.
They said the plan has four points, including a handover of power by Saleh to his deputy, Hadi, followed immediately by talks on a transitional period.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 06, 2011, on page 8.