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30 soldiers killed in battles with Qaeda: army
by Staff Writers
Aden, Yemen (AFP) June 29, 2011

A Yemeni soldier stands guard as anti-government protesters gather for a rally in Sanaa on June 24, 2011 to demand the formation of an interim ruling council, which would prevent wounded President Ali Abdullah Saleh from returning to power. Photo courtesy AFP.

Thirty Yemeni soldiers were killed in battles that raged Wednesday between alleged Al-Qaeda militants and the army in Yemen's southern city of Zinjibar, a military source told AFP.

Four civilians who were fleeing the fighting in a bus also died, witnesses and medics said.

"A total of 30 soldiers and 14 Al-Qaeda militants" were killed in fighting between the army's 25th Mechanised Brigade and gunmen from the extremist network in the area surrounding Al-Wahda stadium, on the outskirts of Zinjibar, the source said.

An earlier toll said 16 soldiers, including a colonel, had been killed in the fighting while a medical official reported two militants dead.

The four civilians died when their bus was hit in a military air strike. They were travelling in a convoy of vehicles that had taken shelter near the stadium where the fighting was taking place. Twelve others were wounded.

More than 130 troops have been killed since the militants, who call themselves Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), seized control of most of Zinjibar on May 29.

The Sanaa government says they are allied with Al-Qaeda but the opposition accuses the government of playing up a jihadist threat in a desperate attempt to keep embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh in power.

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