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3 soldiers, 7 Qaeda suspects dead in Yemen

world Updated: Aug 14, 2011 16:32 IST

Three soldiers and seven alleged al Qaeda militants were killed in clashes in the restive southern Yemeni city of Zinjibar, a military official told AFP.

"Five Al-Qaeda fighters and three soldiers were killed in a fighting that broke out when Al-Qaeda gunmen attacked the 25th Mechanised Brigade" late on Saturday that has been besieged by militants since the end of May, he said.

Further south in the village of Dofas, two other militants were killed in clashes on Saturday night with soldiers based in the village, he said, adding that two soldiers were wounded.

Meanwhile, a local official from the town of Jaar, near Zinjibar, said 10 militants were killed in army shelling on Friday of positions held by the extremists.

The casualty figures could not be independently confirmed.

The army has been battling hundreds of al Qaeda-linked Islamists calling themselves Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law) who took control of most of Zinjibar in May and have besieged the 25th Mechanised Brigade base.

US officials have repeatedly voiced concern that jihadists are taking advantage of a protracted power vacuum in Sanaa to expand their operations in Yemen.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been recovering in Riyadh since early June from wounds he sustained in a bomb blast at his presidential compound in Sanaa following months of pro-democracy protests calling for his ouster.

Saleh, who has been in power since 1978, hinted last week that he might agree to step down, although members of his family, who hold top army and security posts, appear to be running the country.