Two Yemeni soldiers were killed in overnight clashes with suspected Al-Qaeda fighters near the militant stronghold of Zinjibar, a military commander said on Sunday.
An army unit, which attempted to move into the Ba Jidar neighbourhood in the east of the southern city, came under heavy fire from the militants of the Qaeda-linked Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law) group who have held the Abyan provincial capital since May, the commander said.
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The bodies of the two dead soldiers were taken to the Ba Sahid military hospital in the main southern city of Aden, a hospital official told AFP.
The Yemeni army has advance positions on the outskirts of Abyan but repeated attempts to retake the city have all failed.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, has taken advantage of nearly 10 months of sweeping unrest against President Ali Abdullah Saleh to bolster its presence in the restive south and east of Yemen, launching repeated attacks.