ADEN: At least seven Islamist militants were killed near the southern Yemeni city of Lawdar on Thursday in clashes between government forces and an al Qaeda-linked group, a local official told Reuters.
The impoverished country slipped into a state of chaos after the outbreak of protests a little over a year ago that culminated in the ousting of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh under a deal brokered by Yemen's rich Gulf neighbors.
A defense ministry news service said in a text message that four of the militants, members of Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), were Somalis.
More than 200 people have been killed since government forces stepped up attacks on the militants whom it accused of assaulting a military camp near Lawdar last week.
Exploiting weakened central government control, Islamist insurgents have taken control of a number of cities in the territory which is close to key shipping lanes in the Red Sea.
Yemen's new president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, is facing challenges from Shi'ite Muslim rebels in the north and secessionists in the south.