SANAA  - Yemen’s air force raided Qaeda hideouts in the south, killing eight militants, the defence ministry said Saturday, raising to 40 the number of jihadists reportedly killed in two days. “The Yemeni air force carried out two air strikes that targeted Qaeda positions on Friday... killing eight militants and wounding dozens,” said the ministry’s news website The raids were conducted in Abyan province, where reported that 32 militants and two soldiers had been killed in clashes late Thursday. AFP could not independently verify the toll. Qaeda has exploited a decline in Yemeni central government control that accompanied Arab Spring-inspired protests since last year.

 and eventually forced veteran president Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign.

The army, backed by armed civilians, has been battling the extremist group’s Yemeni branch, known as the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), over the control of Abyan province, most of which has fallen under the command of the Islamist insurgents.