ADEN - At least seven Islamist militants were killed near the southern Yemeni city of Lawdar on Thursday in clashes between government forces and an al-Qaida-linked group, a local official told Reuters.

The impoverished country slipped into a state of chaos after the outbreak of protests a little over a year ago that culminated in the ousting of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh under a deal brokered by Yemen's rich Gulf neighbors.

A Yemeni Defense Ministry news service said in a text message that four of the militants, members of Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), were Somalis.

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