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At least 17 killed as army and militants clash in southern Yemen

Clashes between government troops and Al Qaeda militants in Abyan province in Yemen’s restive south have left at least 17 people dead.

Yemen al qaeda 2012 4 4Enlarge
Al Qaeda loyalists in the town of Jaar, in Yemen's southern Abyan province, on Jan. 25, 2012. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

Clashes between government troops and Al Qaeda militants in Yemen’s restive southern region have left at least 17 people dead.

Military officials told the Associated Press that fighting broke out early Sunday as the army and aligned tribal fighters launched a two-pronged attack on the Islamist stronghold of Jaar in Abyan province, which has been under the control of the militants since last year. Yemeni warplanes also bombed targets on the outskirts of the town.

The dead reportedly included eight militants, eight government soldiers, and five tribal fighters. Tribal sources put the death toll at 18, saying 13 of the casualties were jihadists and telling the Agence France Presse that Al Qaeda militants had been transported from Azzan in eastern Shabwa province to Jaar to support the Islamists.

More from GlobalPost: Army offensive against Al Qaeda in Yemen kills 16

Insurgents have exploited a security vacuum, created last year after mass protests erupted against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, to seize vast swathes of territory in Yemen’s southern region.

According to Reuters, the US has stepped up drones attacks in Yemen since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office in February, and the Pentagon announced earlier this month that it had resumed sending military trainers to the country.

Just over a week ago Yemeni forces launched an offensive to recapture Al Qaeda-controlled towns in Abyan, and 213 people have since been killed in the violence. 

More from GlobalPost: Yemen kills 12 militants in southern region, official says

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120520/at-least-17-killed-army-and-militants-clash-southern-yemen