SAN'A, Yemen - After years of stalling and halfhearted efforts under its now-ousted president, Yemen is finally showing resolve in the fight against al-Qaeda's branch in the country, which has been behind a string of attempted attacks on the United States, including a new foiled plot to bomb an airliner.

Still, the difficulties remain formidable.

The army is largely demoralized and undisciplined as it fights al-Qaeda extremists who seized several towns in the south during the chaos of last year's uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The government's intelligence capabilities remain weak. Saleh loyalists seen as weak on battling the terror group remain in key military posts.

As a result, extremists in the south have had a string of successes, including two bloody ambushes and attacks on army bases that have netted them thousands of weapons, Yemeni military officials say.

In a sign of the tougher stance, Saleh's successor, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, on Wednesday rejected an offer by al-Qaeda for talks and vowed to arm popular militias to fight the terror network's extremists alongside the army, according to a senior government official.

Culture Minister Abdullah Oubel told the Associated Press that the offer was relayed Wednesday by senior clerics and tribal elders acting as intermediaries. They told Hadi that al-Qaeda was prepared to talk if artillery shelling and air strikes on their positions in the south are halted.

Hadi refused and gave al-Qaeda 15 days to hand over weapons that its extremists seized from army bases, according to Oubel.