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Yemeni Troops, Tribesmen Kill 20 Militants in South

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Residents of southern Yemen say government forces and tribal allies have killed at least 20 Islamist militants in two days of battles to retake control of parts of Abyan province.

The reports on Tuesday say Yemeni soldiers and local tribesmen inflicted heavy losses on the militants in areas of Abyan seized by those militants in recent months.

There was no independent confirmation of the incidents. It was not clear how many casualties the military and tribesmen have suffered in the fighting.

The militants in recent months had captured the provincial capital of Zinjibar and the town of Jaar as the government struggled to contain a nationwide opposition uprising against Yemen's embattled president.

Residents say Abyan tribesmen turned against the Islamists in the last week, setting up roadblocks to protect tribal communities and cut off the militants' supplies. The tribes also joined forces with Yemeni troops.

Yemen's government says the Islamists are linked to al-Qaida.

Yemeni opposition activists have been staging five months of protests calling for an immediate end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule.

Mr. Saleh has refused to step down despite being severely wounded in a bombing at his presidential compound last month. He has been receiving treatment in a Saudi hospital since the attack.

Yemen's opposition movement had accused Mr. Saleh of abandoning Abyan province to the militants as a ploy to show that his leadership is needed to prevent the country from being overrun by al-Qaida terrorists.

Article by VOA News