At least 72 killed as fighting against Qaeda enters its third day in southern Yemen

Residents have said that two air strikes by Yemeni forces targeted the southern entrances of Louder as well. (AFP)

At least 72 suspected al-Qaeda-linked fighters were killed in Yemen on Wednesday, officials and tribal sources said, as the government sought to seize the momentum in its efforts to contain an Islamist insurgency.

Officials said the clashes took place at Jebel Yasuf, some 10 km (6 miles) from the town of Lawdar, where dozens of people were killed on Monday when fighters from an al-Qaeda-linked group attacked a military camp there.

Local officials and residents said the army killed 30 militants in fighting on Jebel Yasuf, a mountain around 10 km (6 miles) from the southern town of Lawdar.

Tribal sources later said a further 27 militants, including a local commander called Ahmed Dararish, had been killed by tribal fighters near the southern entrance to Lawdar. Three tribesmen also died in the clashes.

At least a further eight people were killed in continued fighting in the vicinity on Tuesday.

The fighting, which has killed at least 124 people since the Islamists raided an army barracks on Monday, raged on the outskirts of Lawdar, the Abyan province town that the extremists have been trying to retake. Qaeda-linked Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law) overran Lawdar in May last year.

Qaeda also briefly seized Loder in August 2010 before being driven out by the army.

Residents said that two air strikes by Yemeni forces targeted the southern entrances of the city as well.

A tribal source had said the militants wanted to recapture it because of its position between Shabwa, Bayda and Lahij provinces where Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, is also active.

Monday’s attack had followed a series of air strikes that killed 24 suspected Qaeda militants in their southern and eastern strongholds.

The United States considers the Yemen-based AQAP to be the most deadly and active branch of the global terror network.

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