Thirty-three people, including six soldiers, were killed in Saturday clashes between Al-Qaeda and the army in southern Yemen as troops advanced towards the Abyan provincial capital Zinjibar, military and local sources said. Soldiers from the 25th Mechanised Brigade “managed early on Saturday to deal heavy blows to terrorists in Maraqid and Mashqasa … killing 20 terrorist elements, most of them Somalis,” Brigadier General Mohammed al-Sawmali told defence ministry news website 26sep.net. “Two soldiers were killed and four others were wounded,” 26sep.net quoted him as saying. Troops “cleansed” Maraqi and Mashqasa, located on the northeastern outskirts of Zinjibar, and seized machineguns, rockets, and rocket propelled grenades, the same source said. Meanwhile, at Jaar, a major Al-Qaeda stronghold in Abyan, four soldiers were killed in battles on the town’s outskirts, a military official told AFP. A source there said seven militants also died. Yemeni forces launched an offensive on May 12 to capture Al-Qaeda controlled areas in Abyan. Since the offensive began, 332 people have been killed, according to a tally compiled by AFP, including 242 Al-Qaeda fighters, 55 military personnel, 18 local militiamen and 17 civilians.