SANAA, Yemen — Yemen military officials say the latest fighting to uproot al-Qaida from the country's south has killed 13 militants, as well as four soldiers and two militiamen fighting alongside the army.

The officials say the 13 al-Qaida fighters died Wednesday as they tried to recapture a strategic hilltop overlooking the town of Lawder in Abyan province from where they were driven out a day earlier. The two militiamen died in that battle.

Meanwhile, a military hospital official says four soldiers died in fighting in the provincial capital Zinjibar.

All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.

Yemeni officials say U.S. troops are for the first time helping direct a four-front assault on al-Qaida strongholds launched Tuesday.