Yemen: 4 soldiers killed in clashes with militants

December 18, 2011 - 7:45 AM

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Four Yemeni soldiers and two al-Qaida-linked militants were killed in clashes in the country's south, military and medical officials said Sunday.

The fighting took place overnight outside the city of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province that Islamic militants seized earlier this year, a military official said. A medical official said six soldiers were wounded in the fighting.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.

Al-Qaida-linked militants have overrun swaths of territory in Abyan, taking advantage of a security vacuum that has developed as a result of Yemen's ongoing political unrest amid nine months of massive protests demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Fighting with the militants has continued as Yemen tries to emerge from its crisis. Saleh is due to step down by the end of the month in return for immunity from prosecution under a deal he signed last month. Under the U.S.- and Saudi-backed deal, a national unity government has already been formed, bringing in opposition parties.

Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has also formed a military committee joining both pro-regime forces and military units that defected to the opposition. On Saturday, the committee had succeeded in removing fighters, weapons and equipment of both sides from two main streets of the capital, Sanaa. But armed pockets of the rival forces could still be seen in side streets nearby.

The U.N. secretary-general's envoy to Yemen, Jamal bin Omar, told reporters before he left Yemen Saturday that the military committee should end its work next Saturday in separating the rival sides, which at times engaged in heavy battles in the capital.

Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the commander of the First Armored Division who defected and joined the protesters in March, expressed his backing for the military committee after meeting Sunday with ambassadors supervising enforcement of the deal.