Yemen army tightens grip on militant-held town

May 28, 2012 15:38

ADEN - Yemeni troops tightened their grip on Monday on a southern town largely controlled by an al-Qaida-linked group as they fought to dislodge them in a new US-backed offensive against Islamist militants.

An army official said five militants were killed in clashes with government troops on the eastern edge of Zinjibar, which was overrun by Islamist fighters a year ago, whilst former President Ali Abdullah Saleh grappled with protests against his rule.

Yemeni forces pushed into the center of Zinjibar on Saturday, recapturing key positions, but the militants still hold a considerable chunk of the town and have planted mines to cover their retreat, officials said.

The United States and its Gulf Arab allies have watched with mounting alarm as militants exploit political instability in Yemen to gain a foothold there, particularly in the southern province of Abyan.

Jaar, another militant stronghold in Abyan, is being surrounded from all sides by the army.

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