Sanaa: Yemeni government troops killed 21 al Qaeda fighters in the latest clashes in the country`s south, military officials said on Saturday, while Washington commended Yemen for successfully routing militants from some strategic southern strongholds.
The military officials said 17 militants died in fighting that raged until early morning around Azan town in southern Shabwa province. Six soldiers were wounded in those clashes, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations.
Four other militants and one soldier died in fighting today in the Hassan valley area in the adjoining Abyan province, the officials also said. The valley is located east of the provincial capital of Zinjibar, which al-Qaida captured last year and held until recently along with several other towns in Abyan.
Al Qaeda`s fighters took advantage of a security vacuum last year during a popular uprising that ousted Yemen`s longtime leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to seize swaths of territory in the strategic south. That raised fears it could use the area as a foothold to launch more attacks on US targets.