Sana’a: Yemen’s Defence Ministry says clashes in the south between Al Qaida militants and pro-government fighters have killed 14 on both sides.

A ministry statement on Thursday says the fighting lasted for the past two days and left eight militants dead. It’s part of a military offensive that local militiamen have joined to push Al Qaida out of the mountainous stronghold of Al Maraksha in Abyan province.

Abdullah Al Ameeri says six of his fighters were killed. Al Ameeri is a member of the Popular Committees, a militia of local residents who sided with the government against Al Qaida.

The US considers Yemen’s Al Qaida branch as the group’s most dangerous offshoot. Washington has helped Yemeni troops with airpower and advisers during last summer’s offensive to drive militants out of large areas Al Qaida seized during Yemen’s 2011 uprising.