ADEN (Reuters) - Fighting between government forces and militants in Yemen's volatile south killed several soldiers and 20 rebel fighters, a local official said Sunday, while military planes bombed two areas killing a yet unknown number of militants.
Five soldiers, one army officer and 20 militants were killed in the violence between Yemen's military and militants close to the city of Zinjibar, he said.
The local official told Reuters army forces were able to regain control of an area west of Zinjibar for the first time since March.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh's government has lost control of some areas in the south after months of political turmoil and mass protests demanding an end to his 33-year old rule.
Also Sunday, two military planes bombarded a militant stronghold in Zinjibar and one in the southern coastal town of Shaqra killing several people, although the exact number of casualties was not immediately known.
Islamist militants, which the government says are part of the al Qaeda arm based in Yemen, have taken over at least three southern towns in recent months.
Shaqra fell to militants this month and was the third town seized by militants, following Jaar in Abyan province in March, and Zinjibar, the provincial coastal capital, in May.
Saturday night, Yemen's navy said it sank a speed boat suspected of carrying explosives as it approached Yemeni naval vessels patrolling the Gulf of Aden.
Saleh is still recovering in neighboring Saudi Arabia from a June assassination attempt, but has vowed several times to return home.
(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing by Martina Fuchs)