13 Qaeda militants killed: Yemen official
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Last Updated: Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 09:09
  
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 installations.

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 Yemen.

PTI


First Published: Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 09:09


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