The sources told Reuters the fighting in Gol al-Rayda and Azzan
districts of Shabwa province started early in the morning and raged
for several hours. An army colonel was among the dead, a Defense
Ministry source said.
The Yemeni army had captured both Gol al-Rayda and Azzan, as well as
the Mahfad district in Abyan province, earlier this month after
heavy fighting in which scores were killed on both sides.
Many of the militants, from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
and its affiliate, Ansar al-Sharia, fled to the mountains and turned
to hit-and-run tactics against security forces and government
facilities across the country. Wednesday's raid was one of the most
daring actions since then.
A military source in Azzam said that eight soldiers and 10 al Qaeda
militants were killed in the fighting. Air force planes were also
striking at fleeing militants, he added.
A Yemeni journalist who specializes in covering al Qaeda,
Abdulrazzaq al-Jamal, reported on his Facebook page that the
militants killed soldiers at a checkpoint and raised a black flag
inscribed with the words "There is no god but God and Mohammed is
his Prophet" on the main police station in Azzan.
Residents also said that many people were forced to stay indoors as
sounds of clashes rang out over the town.
Military sources in the field said the army forced the militants to
retreat, and they took with them the bodies of their dead or
Five militant vehicles were destroyed, the Defense Ministry said.
Government forces also captured a number of the militants in Azzan,
who were found in possession of "documents, bombs and explosives
belts", it said.
Stability of Yemen, which shares a long border with the world's top
oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, is an international concern. The United
States has stepped up its aid and support for the government and
military, including drone strikes.
[to top of second column]
The country is trying to recover from political turmoil which began
in 2011 when mass protests, part of the Arab Spring that began in
North Africa, forced long-ruling president Ali Abdullah Saleh to
Last week, a gunbattle with militants took place near the
presidential palace in Sanaa. Four soldiers were killed.
On Sunday a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into
a military police building in the coastal city of Mukalla, killing
at least 10 soldiers and a civilian.
Apart from the militant threat, impoverished Yemen is trying to cope
with separatist demands in the south and a rebel group in the north.
(Additional reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden, writing by Sami
Aboudi; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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