ADEN (Reuters) - Two Yemeni soldiers were shot dead on Monday and three suspected Islamist militants were killed the night before in two sets of clashes in the south of the turbulent Arabian Peninsula state, security and tribal sources said.
Fighting has also resurged in the capital Sanaa in north Yemen, where forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh have for nine months battled protesters, tribesmen and dissident army factions bent on ending his 33-year rule.
Monday’s incident took place in the commercial port of Aden, which lies east of a strategic shipping strait where some 3 million barrels of oil pass daily.
“Armed groups driving a car opened fire with machine guns on a group of government troops charged with guarding commercial warehouses,” a security source told Reuters.
“Security forces exchanged fire for a short period of time with the armed groups leading to the death of two and the injury of two... The armed groups fled to an unknown place,” the source added. Eyewitnesses said the fighting had also involved hand grenades and that a government car had been burned.
In recent weeks armed groups linked to al Qaeda have targeted Aden with suicide attacks on high-level officials in the army and government.
The neighboring province of Abyan has been in a state of virtual anarchy since militants suspected of ties to al Qaeda began seizing cities in the coastal region several months ago.
On Sunday night three people were killed near Zinjibar in Abyan during clashes between tribesmen and suspected militants.
“At least three armed men calling themselves Ansar al-Shari‘a were killed on Sunday night in clashes with tribesmen fighting alongside government forces against al Qaeda-linked militants in Abyan,” said a tribal source.
Saleh has thrice backed out of signing a power transition plan brokered by Gulf neighbors that would see him leave office, and says he will only transfer power to “safe hands.”
On Friday the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution condemning the crackdown on protesters and urging the veteran leader to sign the plan, which would grant him immunity from prosecution if he steps down.
Reporting By Mohamed Mukhashaf; Writing By Angus McDowall; Editing by Mark Heinrich