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Saudi-led Arab coalition says more than 800 al Qaeda fighters killed in Yemen

Yemeni government forces backed by Arab allies have killed more than 800 al Qaeda members, a Saudi news report says. The militants were reportedly killed in an offensive on one of the group's strongholds.

The reported deaths came during an attack on the southeastern port city of Mukalla, which had been held by al Qaeda for the past year, the Saudi-led coalition said on Monday in a statement published by the official Saudi news agency SPA.

"The operation resulted... in the death of more than 800 al Qaeda members and some of their leaders, while some others fled," Arab coalition commanders said in the statement.

The death toll could not be independently confirmed. No number was given for civilian casualties.

SPA carried a report late on Sunday night saying that Yemeni troops backed by coalition airstrikes had recaptured Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt province. The city, home to some 200,000 people, was considered a jihadist stronghold.

Yemeni military sources said Emirati military vehicles and troops were involved in the operation to retake the city. The Saudi-led coalition that has been carrying out airstrikes in Yemen since March 2015 also reportedly attacked al Qaeda positions in Mukalla from the air to pave the way for ground troops.

Ruined buildings after airstrikes

Saudi-led airstrikes have reportedly damaged the city

Wider offensive

The operation formed part of a wider offensive by supporters of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, together with Saudi and Emirati special forces, that is aimed at taking back territory captured by jihadist militants who have been taking advantage of Yemen's 13-month civil war.

Yemen is in the grip of a conflict pitting Hadi loyalists backed by Gulf states against Shiite Houthi rebels who are supported by Iran. A ceasefire

entered into effect on April 11,

but jihadist groups are excluded from the truce.

UN-brokered peace talks

are currently underway in Kuwait after

a delay

caused by a rebel protest over alleged Saudi violations of the ceasefire.

tj/kms (AFP, Reuters)