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U.S. drone kills 5 al-Qaeda militants in Yemen

An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity according
to military rules, said the dawn strike targeted militant hideouts in the
al-Arqoub area east of Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province. Islamic radicals
seized control of Zinjibar in May, taking advantage of a wider uprising against
President Ali Abdullah Saleh to establish a militant-ruled enclave.

Government forces and mutinous military units who oppose
each other but consider al-Qaeda the greater enemy have fought their way back
into the city, but continue to suffer casualties to militant attacks.

U.S. drones regularly hit targets in Yemen. American-born
al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a drone on Sept. 30 in the
north of the country in what American officials said was a major blow to the
militant organization.

Officials said that Wednesday’s drone strike in Abyan
killed 5 and injured seven.

Yemeni officials also reported other clashes around Abyan
province in the past two days that killed nine people. The office of Vice
President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said that three foreigners, two Pakistanis and
a Chechen, were killed in Abyan on Tuesday. Foreign fighters commonly turn up in
al-Qaeda’s ranks in Yemen and other countries.

Military officials said two Yemeni soldiers were killed
Tuesday by a roadside bomb and two others in fighting with al-Qaeda militants,
also east of Zinjibar. A second roadside bomb detonated by remote control killed
two civilian anti-al-Qaeda activists Wednesday near a checkpoint in the town of
Lawder northeast of Zinjibar, said Jihad Hafeez, a member of an anti-al-Qaeda
coordinating committee said.

Yemen, an impoverished Arab with a weak central government,
has been the center of multiple uprisings since February, when President Saleh
cracked down on protesters challenging his 33-year rule in the country’s chapter
of the Arab Spring.

Yemen is believed by U.S. and other intelligence agencies
to be a global planning and training center for al-Qaeda, but Yemeni officials
rarely acknowledge the presence of foreigners fighting alongside homegrown
militants.

In another area of southern Yemen, government forces have
been battling for weeks with armed anti-Saleh tribesmen around the city of Taiz.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, government forces heavily shelled Taiz, leaving eight
civilians dead, residents said.

Opposition activist Bushra al-Maqtari said that mortar
shells fired by Republican
Guard units led by Saleh’s son Ahmed fell on five city districts, damaging
120 houses and shops.

Al-Maqtari said that a freelance photographer named
Abdel-Hakim al-Nour was among those killed in Taiz, and that six children and 10
women were among the wounded. She said that the government cut the city’s
electricity and blocked all the roads out, preventing residents from
fleeing.

The city’s al-Rawdha hospital appealed to residents to give
blood, and called to on pharmaceutical firms across the country to send medicine
and other supplies.

Protest organizers meanwhile said that thousands had turned
out for demonstrations in 17 provinces demanding Saleh’s ouster and denouncing
the fighting in Taiz. Large anti-government rallies occur daily in Yemen.

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