ADEN, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Yemeni tribesmen killed four Islamist militants in the southern Abyan province on Friday, a day after a Yemeni jet bombed another southern location killing at least five militants.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh's government has lost control of some areas in the south after months of political turmoil and mass protests demanding an end to his three-decade-old-rule.
On Friday, the militants were ambushed and killed in the southern town of al-Urqub, a security official told Reuters.
A day earlier, a Yemeni air strike hit the southern coastal town of Shaqra as well as two sites where militants had gathered in the town of Zinjibar, an official told Reuters. He was unable to give details of casualties in the Zinjibar operation.
Shaqra fell to the militants on Wednesday. It is the third town to be seized by militants following Jaar in Abyan province in March, and Zinjibar, the provincial coastal capital, in May.
Protesters and opposition parties suspect Saleh has deliberately loosened security to allow militants to act more freely, in an attempt to illustrate the dangers of a Yemen without the veteran leader.
Yemen's army in July launched an offensive on militants suspected of having ties to al Qaeda. Islamist militants, some possibly linked to al Qaeda, may be exploiting a security vacuum as Saleh and his allies fight to stay in power.
Army units, backed by tribal fighters who have grown frustrated by the state's inability to drive out the militants, have been struggling to retake Zinjibar, which lies east of a major shipping lane where some 3 million barrels of oil pass daily.
In a separate incident, 10 people -- mostly women and children -- were injured in an explosion at a clothes market in al-Qatn in the southern Hadramout province on Thursday, which targeted an army officer and his family, a security official told Reuters.
Witnesses said they saw a man throwing a hand grenade and later fleeing in a car. The officer and his family survived unhurt, the official said.
Saleh, in power since 1978, said on Tuesday he would soon return home from Saudi Arabia where he is recovering from a June assassination attempt in which he was wounded.
Popular protests against Saleh erupted during uprisings that ousted the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt this year, but the Yemeni leader has clung to power, defying international pressure and three times backing out of a Gulf-brokered transition deal.