ADEN (Reuters) - At least 13 al Qaeda-linked militants and government troops were killed on Saturday in a clash at a checkpoint outside Yemen's southern port of Aden, the Defense Ministry said.
Militants opened fire on the checkpoint from two vehicles, prompting government troops to return fire, the ministry said on its website. Eight militants and five soldiers were killed in the exchange of fire, it added. One of the militants' vehicles was also destroyed.
The clash came six days after Yemen's military launched an offensive against Islamist insurgents who had attacked a military camp outside the southern city of Lawdar. About 200 people have been killed in the fighting so far.
On Friday, at least 34 people, mostly Islamist militants, were killed near Lawdar, officials said, after the government intensified its operations, sending an elite anti-terrorism unit from the capital Sanaa to join the fight.
A local official said on Friday the Yemeni air force had bombed two sites held by militants. No casualties were reported.
In an emailed statement on Friday, Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), a group affiliated with al Qaeda, said its fighters had killed 37 tribesmen fighting for the government in the previous two days.
The conflict in the south of the country is one of several challenges facing Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the new president.
Ansar al-Sharia seized a significant chunk of territory in the southern province of Abyan during the turmoil that led to the replacement of his predecessor President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Hadi vowed to fight al Qaeda in a deal that eased Saleh from power. Saudi Arabia and the United States hoped the deal would prevent al Qaeda getting a foothold near key oil shipping routes in the Red Sea.
Hadi also faces Shi'ite Muslim rebels in the north and southern secessionists.
(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Andrew Osborn)