Yemen's army shelled suspected Al-Qaeda positions in the capital of the troubled Abyan province, killing nine militants in its battle to win control of the city, a local official told AFP on Monday.
An army unit commanded by dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar "shelled parts of Zinjibar killing nine members of Al-Qaeda," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that five of the militants were foreigners, including "two Somalis, a Mauritanian, an Algerian and a Saudi."
The deaths, late Sunday, were the latest in a string of casualties in Abyan, where government troops are struggling to wrest control of at least three provincial cities, including Zinjibar, that since May have fallen to Al-Qaeda linked militants known as the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law).
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A tribal source said on Sunday that four other extremists were killed in an ambush by tribal fighters allied to the military in Abyan.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the global network's deadliest and most active branch, and its local affiliates, have taken advantage of the government's distraction with 10 months of protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh to strengthen their hold on the country's southern region.
Despite months of clashes, government troops have so far been unable to win back full control of Abyan.