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The military already previously took control of much of Zinjibar, the provincial capital, and the fighting there was lighter because many of the al Qaeda militants had left to help their comrades in Jaar, officials said. Six soldiers were killed when land minds exploded in fields in northern Zinjibar, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information.

The victories capped weeks of fighting as Yemen‘s new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, pledged to uproot al Qaeda from the south with help from the United States as part of a new cooperation following the ouster of Mr. Saleh amid a popular uprising

The United States, which considers al Qaeda’s Yemen chapter the most dangerous offshoot of the terror network, is helping the Yemenis from a command center manned by dozens of U.S. troops in the al-Annad air base in the southern desert, about 45 miles from the main battle zones. The Americans are coordinating assaults and airstrikes and providing information to Yemeni forces.

The militant group has been blamed for directing a string of unsuccessful bomb plots on U.S. soil from its hideouts in the impoverished country at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Most recently, this month it emerged that the CIA had thwarted a plot to down a U.S.-bound airliner using a new, sophisticated explosive to be hidden in the bomber’s underwear. But the planned bomber was actually a double agent who turned the device over to the U.S. government.

Al Qaeda retaliated last month with a suicide bombing by a soldier who blew himself up among troops rehearsing for a military parade in Sanaa, killing nearly 100 of them in one of the deadliest attacks in the capital in years.

Yemen‘s military long has been largely ineffectual in uprooting the militants. The force is ill-equipped, poorly trained with weak intelligence capabilities and is riven with conflicted loyalties, since some commanders remain close to Mr. Saleh.

Mr. Hadi also has shaken up the military by purging it from loyalists of Saleh, demoting his family members from their positions as commanders of army units and appointing new ones. He faced resistance since Mr. Saleh has been seen as trying to hold power strings from behind the scenes by keeping his loyalists in their positions. Mr. Saleh’s son, Ahmed, is the top commander of the most powerful Republican Guards force.