Last updated: 20 December, 2011

Two Yemen soldiers, 13 Islamists killed in clashes

Fresh fighting between suspected Al-Qaeda militants and army troops in Yemen’s restive Abyan province have killed two soldiers and 13 Islamists, military officials said on Tuesday.

During Monday’s clashes in southern Yemen the army fired artillery rounds on positions held by fighters of the Al-Qaeda linked Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law) group, killing 13 Islamists, the officials said.

Two soldiers were killed in the fighting on the outskirts of Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province, which the army has been trying to retake control of since May.

A local official in the adjacent town of Jaar, an Al-Qaeda stronghold, told AFP that the army has benefited from US logistical support which allows Yemeni forces to locate the Islamists’ hideouts.

Yemeni government forces have been backed by tribal fighters and sometimes supported by US drone strikes in their fight against the Partisans of Sharia, which has controlled most of Zinjibar since May.

Al-Qaeda has profited from the instability caused by 11 months of protests against Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, strengthening its positions across the south of the country.