Yemen forces pressed on Sunday with an assault to recapture the Al-Qaeda-held southern city of Zinjibar, advancing on two fronts in fighting that killed six soldiers in two days, a military official said.
Two soldiers were killed in overnight fighting bringing the total of army losses since the all-out operation was launched Saturday to six, said the official.
"The fighting continues and the army is advancing towards Zinjibar," the capital of the southern province of Abyan, he said on condition of anonymity.
"The death toll among soldiers has increased to six, while 18 others were wounded," the official added.
He said that government forces have made progress on the southern and eastern fronts of the city, with troops reached the Shaddad Fort, around three kilometres (1.8 miles) east of Zinjibar, and the Zinjibar Bridge, around one kilometre (0.6 miles) from the city.
The "wide offensive" began from three sides and was supported by the air force and the navy, said another military official on Saturday, adding that Defence Minister Mohammed Nasser Ahmed was overseeing the operation.
"The defence minister is supervising a military plan to regain control of the city of Zinjibar and (the neighbouring town of) Jaar from Al-Qaeda gunmen," the official said.
Six fighters of the Al-Qaeda-linked Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), were also killed in the attack, said a tribal source in Jaar, to where the gunmen evacuate their casualties.
The militants took advantage of a central government weakened by an Arab Spring-inspired uprising to overrun Zinjibar in May last year. They also control Jaar and other parts of the province.
Military units also attacked Jaar from the west, a military official said on Saturday, adding troops had reached the area of Kadama, on the outskirts of the town.