Source: Reuters ,23/08/2010
* Government forces kill 7 militants in the south
* Fighting follows a series of al Qaeda attacks
ADEN- Yemeni troops killed seven militants on Sunday, a day after seven suspected al Qaeda fighters were shot dead following a string of attacks in south Yemen, a security official said.
The seven militants were killed in the restive town of Lawdar, where seven others died in clashes with government forces on Saturday, the official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
Officials earlier said the seven militants killed on Saturday included three foreigners, without giving their nationality.
State media has blamed the fighting, including the killing of at least eight soldiers in Lawdar on Friday, on al Qaeda's regional wing and "outlaw elements", a reference to separatists who are behind some of the unrest in southern Yemen. Most of the assaults since June have been claimed by al Qaeda, which has stepped up attacks on security forces in recent months, marking a shift in tactics for the global militant group's Yemen arm, which previously focused on foreign targets.
Al Qaeda has said in statements released on Islamist websites that its attacks on Yemen government targets are due to enhanced U.S.-Yemeni military cooperation against the group.
With U.S. backing, Yemen is waging a crackdown on al Qaeda, which has long made use of the Arabian Peninsula state's remote mountains and deserts to hide and set up training camps.
Western powers fear that al Qaeda is exploiting instability in Yemen, which borders top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and sits next to a strategic shipping lane, to strengthen its operations and launch attacks both regionally and abroad.
The group claimed a failed bomb attempt on a U.S.-bound passenger plane in December.
Impoverished Yemen, which is also trying to cement a ceasefire with Shi'ite rebels in the north , has faced international pressure to resolve its domestic conflicts in order to focus on quashing al Qaeda. (Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashef; writing by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Charles Dick)