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At least 20 militants killed in southern Yemen clashes

At least 20 Al Qaeda-linked militants and six government soldiers have been killed in heavy shelling and clashes in Yemen’s southern region, according to government and military officials.

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)

At least 20 Al Qaeda-linked militants have been killed in heavy shelling and clashes in Yemen’s southern region, according to government and military officials.

The Defence Ministry said an air raid had targeted an insurgent communications station near the southern coastal town of Shaqra in Abyan province early Wednesday, killing three and wounding seven, according to the Associated Press.

The station was reportedly being used by militants to direct anti-government operations over the Internet, through wireless communications and via satellite telephone.

Elsewhere, at least 17 militants and six soldiers were killed in clashes and shelling in the western town of Jaar, a town that has been in the grip of insurgents for more than a year, while army officials said troops had captured rebel-controlled positions within several kilometers of the town.

Further north, the army clashed with militants in the town of Radda, which was briefly seized by insurgents earlier this year but handed back over after a deal was struck with the authorities, Reuters reports.

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Insurgents linked to Al Qaeda’s Yemeni franchise, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), have exploited a security vacuum created last year after mass protests erupted against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and seized vast swathes of territory in Yemen’s southern region.

Backed by the US, the Yemeni army has launched a major aerial and ground offensive in the south to take back several militant-controlled towns. According to the BBC, more than 350 people, including 250 militants and 50 soldiers, are believed to have died since the offensive was launched.

In November, protesters forced President Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who was elected president in February and immediately named the "continuation of war against al-Qaeda" as one of his most important tasks. 

More from GlobalPost: At least 17 killed as army and militants clash in southern Yemen

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120530/at-least-20-militants-killed-southern-yemen-clashes