"The army troops, with military helicopter gunships and tanks, started attacking Al Qaeda hideouts with a large offensive in Abyan's mountainous region of Mahfad and the town of Azzan in neighbouring Shabwa province," the official told Xinhua.
Local residents confirmed that they saw "heavy military convoys backed by armoured vehicles and tanks travelling toward the Mahfad region".
Several Al Qaeda held sites in Abyan and Shabwa provinces in south Yemen are being targeted through "Operation Golden Swords," the official added.
Tuesday's action is a part of a large government assault and military mobilisation with participation of over 1,600 soldiers across the two provinces, a source said.
The Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has frequently staged revenge attacks against local targets, including military ones, and foreign missions in the impoverished Arab country.
The AQAP, which emerged in January 2009, is considered the most serious strategic threat to the the country's government and neighboring oil-rich Saudi Arabia.