Two Yemeni soldiers and two suspected Al-Qaeda militants were killed in clashes overnight near the restive southern city of Zinjibar, a military source said on Saturday.
Three soldiers and four members of the Partisans of Sharia, an Al-Qaeda-linked insurgent group that took over most of Zinjibar earlier this year, were wounded in the fighting, the source said.
Zinjibar is the capital of the southern Abyan province, a stronghold of Al-Qaeda, and has been the scene of frequent fighting between army troops and Islamist militants since May.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Yemenis were marching Saturday on Zinjibar to protest months of violence that has seen most of its residents abandon the city and seek shelter elsewhere.
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The protesters, mostly Zinjibar residents, carried banners calling for "the departure of Al-Qaeda fighters" from their city and an end to the "destructive war," said one of the organisers, Mohammed Qays.
But five kilometres (three miles) outside Zinjibar militants from the Partisans of Sharia group stopped the protesters and prevented them from going any further, Qays later told said.
"They want us to put pressure on the army to quit the city but we want both the soldiers and militants to leave," he said.
Qays added that the marchers decided to hold their ground and set up a protest camp in the village of Kud, until they are allowed to enter Zinjibar.