Yemen: Islamist militants driven back

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Government forces have driven a group of Islamist insurgents linked to al-Qaeda from their mountain retreat in the country’s south after killing 21 militants during two days of fighting.

The army and pro-government militias battled militants near the town of Shuqra in Abyan province, an impoverished, rugged region of southern Yemen where tribal law holds sway and armed Islamists have a strong presence.

Two soldiers and five militia members were also killed.

Surviving militants are understood to have fled the area.

Tackling lawlessness in Yemen, which lies near important oil shipment routes and flanks the world’s biggest oil exporter Saudi Arabia, is an international priority.

Washington and other Western governments regard Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as one of the most dangerous branches of the militant network.