Yemen's Defense Ministry says air raids in a southern town have killed six Al Qaeda-linked fighters.

A ministry statement said the raids were carried out early Wednesday against militant positions in the southern town of Lawder in Abyan province.

Militants have been battling the Yemeni security forces for weeks to regain control of the strategically important town.

It lies on a key highway linking Abyan province's capital of Zinjibar, an Al Qaeda stronghold, with other provinces further east where the group is also active.

The attack came as the U.N.'s envoy to Yemen arrived in Sanaa to shore up support for Yemen's new leader, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Hadi has been trying to purge the security forces of holdovers from former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.