13 Qaeda militants killed: Yemen official

Thirteen Al-Qaeda militants were killed in clashes with Yemeni soldiers in the southern province of Abyan.

Updated: Mar 23, 2011, 09:09 AM IST

Aden: Thirteen Al-Qaeda militants were
killed in clashes with Yemeni soldiers in the southern province of Abyan, a stronghold of the radical network, a local official said.

The bloodshed came as US Defence Secretary Robert Gates
warned that Yemen`s political "instability and diversion of
attention from dealing with AQAP," Al-Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula, was a "primary concern" to Washington.

"Thirteen Al-Qaeda militants have been killed in ongoing
clashes with the army in the town of Loder" in Abyan province,
said the local official.

Earlier yesterday, a security official gave a casualty
toll of two Al-Qaeda militants dead and five soldiers wounded
after "a group of Al-Qaeda elements surrounded an army unit."

The two sides traded fire with "artillery and machine
guns and rocket-propelled grenades," said the security source.

The local official said the showdown came after about 40
Al-Qaeda militants using loudspeakers called on troops to
surrender. The outcome was "a final blow against Al-Qaeda in
Loder," the scene of frequent clashes in 2010, he said.

Last Thursday, Al-Qaeda fighters attacked a security post
in the eastern province of Marib, sparking a clash in which
three militants and two policemen were killed, officials said.
Yemen is the ancestral homeland of Al-Qaeda leader Osama
bin Laden and has been the scene of several attacks claimed by
the group on foreign missions, tourist sites and oil

A major US ally in its fight against Al-Qaeda, Yemen is
grappling with escalating anti-regime protests which have
caused a rift within the military, a secessionist movement in
the country`s south and a northern rebellion.

Gates, talking to reporters during a visit to Moscow on
Tuesday, stressed the threat beyond the borders of Yemen posed
by Al-Qaeda`s branch in the country, where vast areas lie
outside government control even in normal times.

"We consider Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is
largely located in Yemen, to be perhaps the most dangerous of
all the franchises of Al-Qaeda right now," he said.

AQAP is accused of being behind a botched Christmas Day
2009 attempt to blow up a US-bound passenger plane, allegedly
carried out by a young Nigerian who reportedly studied in