SANAA (Reuters) - At least eight Yemeni soldiers and three suspected al Qaeda militants died in clashes on Saturday in the town of Jabal Ras in Yemen's western Hodeidah province, local officials and residents said.
Fighting has flared in certain provinces in Yemen since the rise to dominance by Shi'ite Muslim rebels in recent months, threatening the fragile stability of a country that lies next to Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter.
Houthi forces took over Sanaa in September and fanned out into central and western Yemen, irking Sunni tribesmen and al Qaeda militants who regard the Houthis as heretics and have stepped up their attacks.
The latest al Qaeda suicide bombing killed 33 people in the central province of al-Bayda last week. Days later, also in al Bayda, 30 Shi'ite rebels and 18 Sunni fighters and their tribal allies died in clashes.
The Houthis took Hodeidah earlier this month, home to Hodeida port, the second largest port in the impoverished Arabian peninsula nation after Aden.
Saturday's clashes broke out when suspected al Qaeda militants staged an attack.
"The attack happened when a group of suspected al-Qaeda militants attacked an administration checkpoint," said a local official.
Residents in the area said that the clashes were still ongoing.
Last month, residents and activists said al Qaeda fighters had marched into al-Odayn, a city of 200,000 in the central province of Ibb, captured the local government offices and raised their black and white flag over it.
(Reporting by Mohamed Ghobari; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)