Yemeni security officials say three suspected Al Qaeda militants have been killed and 12 arrested in a series of security sweeps in the capital and the country's south.

They say security forces confiscated weapons, suicide belts and two cars loaded with explosives in the southern city of Aden. Three militants were killed in an exchange of gunfire in Aden after they refused to surrender.

Security forces also arrested 12 militants in the capital, Sanaa.

The officials say the security sweeps began a week ago and continued through Tuesday morning.

The operation comes amid reports of possible attacks by Al Qaeda on Yemeni government agencies and foreign interests in the capital and the country's south.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press.