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'30 soldiers killed in battles with Qaeda'

Thirty Yemeni soldiers were on Wednesday killed in battles that raged between alleged al Qaeda militants and the army in Yemen's southern city of Zinjibar, a military source told AFP.

world Updated: Jun 29, 2011 21:52 IST

Thirty Yemeni soldiers were on Wednesday killed in battles that raged between alleged al Qaeda militants and the army in Yemen's southern city of Zinjibar, a military source told AFP.

Four civilians who were fleeing the fighting in a bus also died, witnesses and medics said.

"A total of 30 soldiers and 14 al Qaeda militants" were killed in fighting between the army's 25th Mechanised Brigade and gunmen from the extremist network in the area surrounding Al-Wahda stadium, on the outskirts of Zinjibar, the source said.

An earlier toll said 16 soldiers, including a colonel, had been killed in the fighting while a medical official reported two militants dead.

The four civilians died when their bus was hit in a military air strike. They were travelling in a convoy of vehicles that had taken shelter near the stadium where the fighting was taking place. Twelve others were wounded.

More than 130 troops have been killed since the militants, who call themselves Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), seized control of most of Zinjibar on May 29.

The Sanaa government says they are allied with al Qaeda but the opposition accuses the government of playing up a jihadist threat in a desperate attempt to keep embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh in power.