Fighting, air strike kill 16 in Yemen

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 04, 2011 6:53 AM
Fighting, air strike kill 16 in Yemen

SANAA (Reuters) - Mortar fire killed two Yemenis and wounded six in Sanaa on Tuesday in what appeared to be fresh fighting in the capital between soldiers loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and forces siding with anti-government protesters.

Elsewhere, a Yemeni air strike in the south killed at least 10 Islamist militants, while three others died in a clash, along with a soldier, a local official and residents said.

A doctor said the Sanaa victims, all civilians, had been hit by a mortar round that landed in a market on Hayel street in a district contested by government troops and those of a rebel general, Ali Mohsen, a former Saleh ally.

Residents further down Hayel street heard an exchange of gunfire but it was not clear whether that was a separate clash.

Violence has been sporadic since Saleh's surprise return to Yemen from Saudi Arabia 10 days ago, but tension remains high in the impoverished country, which is awash with guns.

Tensions boiled over in Sanaa last month when political deadlock gave way to a military showdown between Saleh loyalists and Mohsen's forces. More than 100 people died in the fighting -- most of them protesters caught in the middle.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis have so far failed.

The upheaval is fanning international fears that weakening government control may help al Qaeda's local wing expand its foothold in Yemen, which borders oil giant Saudi Arabia and lies near shipping routes through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

The army is fighting to regain territory lost to militants in the south, notably in Abyan province, where Islamist fighters control the city of Jaar and other locations.

The 10 militants were killed in one of two air force raids in the Jaar area, residents and a local official said, adding that three more militants and a soldier were killed in a shootout in Abyan's provincial capital of Zinjibar, which the government said it had recaptured from Islamists last month.

(Reporting by Erika Solomon, Mohammed Ghobari and Dhuyazen Mukhashaf; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Alistair Lyon)