ADEN, Yemen - Islamist militants fled from Yemeni government forces advancing on the southern coastal town of Shaqra on Thursday in a US-backed offensive to recapture territory from the Al-Qaida-linked insurgents, a local official and residents said.

The government troops and allied tribal fighters were a few kilometers (miles) from Shaqra after retaking an area held by the insurgents on the outskirts on Wednesday.

Many insurgents fled at dawn and headed towards the town of Azzan after setting fire to two tanks and other military equipment, Shaqra residents said.

The militants were forced out of their strongholds of Zinjibar and Jaar on Tuesday in the army's most significant victory against them in more than a year of turmoil that has taken Yemen to the brink of civil war.

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