SANAA: A Yemeni Islamist group linked to al-Qaeda said on Friday it had released 27 soldiers taken prisoner, after they vowed to quit the US-backed government army. Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic law) said in a statement it had seized the soldiers last month in Abyan province in the south of the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state. Yemeni troops continued bombing targets in the Shaqra and Arqoub regions of Abyan for a fifth day on Thursday, part of an army offensive against the militants. There was no news of casualties. Yemen’s government has been battling al-Qaeda-linked groups which took over areas of south and central Yemen during an uprising last year against veteran ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh before he finally stepped down in February.