Sunday, September 11, 2011

Two soldiers die in southern Yemen clash

September 11, 2011

Two Yemeni soldiers were killed and four others wounded Sunday when a mine exploded in the southern city of Zinjibar where troops have been fighting to expel Al-Qaeda-linked militants, a military official said.

The Yemeni government announced on Saturday the army had "liberated" Zinjibar, capital of the southern province of Abyan, which was seized in May by a militant group called the Partisans of Sharia, believed to be linked to Al-Qaeda.

A Yemeni military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the two soldiers were killed "when a mine planted by Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants exploded in eastern Zinjibar."

He added that the army had only reclaimed control of the northern and eastern parts of the city, contradicting official government reports that they had retaken the entire town.

The casualty toll from the mine explosion was confirmed by medical officials.

The military official said intermittent clashes continued throughout Zinjibar on Sunday, despite the army's claim that most militants had already fled the city to the nearby town of Jaar, another militant stronghold.

He said the army was reluctant to enter the city center because of concerns that the fleeing militants may have planted mines before withdrawing.

Southern Yemen has seen a sharp rise in violence since mass anti-government protests threw into question the entrenched presidency of Ali Abdullah Saleh and weakened the central government.

In May, militants linked to Al-Qaeda seized control of three towns in Abyan, and since then, government troops and dissident fighters have been fighting to take them back.

The violence has displaced more than 100,000 Yemenis in the south in recent months, according to the United Nations.

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