SANAA, Yemen – Yemeni airstrikes killed five militants in the south Saturday as the country's president vowed to intensify his campaign against al-Qaida militants.
Government troops have been waging an offensive against the terror network for several weeks after militants took advantage of Yemen's political turmoil to expand their presence.
Military officials said airstrikes Saturday in the southern city of Lawder, in Abyan province, killed five militants. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.
President Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi said Saturday that the fight against the group is just beginning. He spoke during a graduation ceremony for military officers.
"The battle against al-Qaida has not yet started in earnest and will not end until every village, district and area is cleansed of terrorists," he said.
Since taking office in February, Hadi has increased cooperation with Washington which views the branch in Yemen as the most active.
Hadi also faces an internal power struggle. He's trying to reform the security agencies, which are stacked with loyalists of his predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh stepped down in the face of widespread popular protests last year.
Critics accuse Saleh of obstructing Hadi's reforms and resisting efforts to purge the security agencies of his loyalists, including family members.
Separately, a Yemeni human rights group said the internal intelligence agency has been detaining two Belgian nationals for over a month without prosecution or referral to trial.
In a statement Saturday, the Hood Organization for Defending Human Rights said the two men were studying Arabic in Yemen and were detained at the airport as they tried to leave the country.
A Yemeni airport official confirmed the two Belgians were apprehended. The official said the security authorities are usually informed when foreigners studying Arabic in Yemen are leaving the country.
He was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Yemeni authorities fear suspected militants use Arabic studies in Yemen as cover to meet with al-Qaida militants. This was the case with Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who allegedly used his studies at a San'aa language school as a pretense to enter the country and meet with al-Qaida militants before his botched attempt to blow up an American passenger jet in 2009.