28 December 2011
ADEN -(AFP) Yemen’s army exchanged machinegun fire with Al-Qaeda suspects in the country’s south in clashes that left two soldiers and three extremists dead, military and local officials said on Wednesday.
“Battles using machineguns erupted on the eastern outskirts of the city of Zinjibar, leaving two soldiers dead and seven others wounded,” a military official told AFP, referring to the capital of Abyan province.
The wounded were taken to a military hospital in nearby Aden for treatment, the same source said.
Three militants from the Partisans of Sharia, the Al-Qaeda-linked insurgent group that took over most of Zinjibar in May, were also killed in the clashes late on Tuesday and at least five were wounded.
A local official in the adjacent town of Jaar confirmed the toll, adding that the three dead militants were a Syrian, a Saudi and a Yemeni.
The army also fired Katyusha rockets at the extremists’ hideouts in several areas across the outskirts of Zinjibar, the military official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
The Islamist extremist network has turned 11 months of political turmoil in the country to its advantage, using the popular revolt against President Ali Abdullah Saleh to bolster its presence in southern and eastern Yemen.
Militants linked to Al-Qaeda control several regions and towns including Zinjibar, where they clash regularly with government forces and tribal auxiliaries.
Government forces are also sometimes supported by US drone strikes in their battle against the Partisans of Sharia.