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Thousands of people have fled Hawta and the surrounding area in Shabwa province since security forces laid siege to the village three days ago. The operation signals an escalation in the government’s U.S.-backed campaign to uproot the terrorist network’s local offshoot, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Shabwa officials said at least four al Qaeda fighters and a civilian have been killed since the fighting began Saturday, while medical officials said at least nine soldiers have been wounded in the past two days. More than two dozen suspected militants have been detained.

From wire dispatches and staff reports