Sanaa: Three Yemeni soldiers and six policemen were killed Thursday when suspected Al Qaeda militants launched attacks in the southern province of Abyan and the town of Odain, according to government and military officials.

The three soldiers were killed when suspected Al Qaeda militants shelled their armoured vehicle in the southern province of Abyan, a government official told Xinhua.

“The Al Qaeda suspects shelled the armoured vehicle with a rocket-propelled grenade, killing three soldiers and injuring two others on the spot,” a local government official said on condition of anonymity.

He said the attack took place near a public hospital in Ahwar town of Abyan province, where the Al Qaeda has a strong presence.

Earlier in the day, dozens of well armed Al Qaeda fighters took control of the town of Odain, southwest of Yemen’s capital Sanaa, according to a military official.

“The compound of the local government, the post office, the agricultural bank and the police headquarters were all set on fire,” the official said, adding that about six policemen were killed during the pre-dawn attacks in the city.

On Tuesday, the US said it was offering rewards totalling $45 million for information about eight key leaders of the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Yemeni military officials have blamed militants of the Yemen-based Al Qaeda offshoot for a series of assassinations and armed attacks, mostly in the country’s southern regions.

The Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which emerged in January 2009 and also known locally as Ansar al-Sharia, is considered one of the greatest threats to the Yemeni government and neighbouring oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

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