Aden: Five Yemeni troops and a colonel and seven militants died overnight in clashes in southern Yemen, and Army artillery killed eight pro-government tribesmen by mistake, local and tribal officials said on Saturday.
The clashes took place outside Zinjibar, the centre of the province of Abyan where militants have seized several areas, a local official said. The region lies east of an international shipping lane where three million barrels of oil pass daily.
A tribal official said the Army targeted the tribesmen which it mistook for militants as they approached Zinjibar in another area late on Friday.
The militants have posed a rising challenge in recent months to Army control in southern Yemen.
They have seized several areas in the province of Abyan, raising fears in the West and neighbouring Saudi Arabia that al Qaeda`s Yemen wing is taking advantage of political turmoil and six months of anti-government protests.
Al Qaeda`s regional wing, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released an audio recording by its military commander on Islamist website on Friday in which he vowed to attack the world`s top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.
On Friday, tens of thousands gathered for protests both for and against President Ali Abdullah Saleh`s three-decade rule.