Middle East

Yemen army captures third Islamist stronghold

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The Yemeni army has recaptured a stronghold that had been seized by Islamist militants, its third such success this week.

Shuqra, in the restive southern province of Abyan, fell to the Yemeni army as part of a US-backed offensive against Ansar al-Sharia - an offshoot of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Seventeen militants were killed in heavy fighting, officials said.

Earlier this week the army retook the towns of Zinjibar and Jaar.

Several towns in Abyan have been under the control of Ansar al-Sharia for more than a year.

During 2011, Yemen was the scene of numerous anti-government protests which eventually toppled former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Separatist unrest and al-Qaeda-linked militants have blighted the country's south for years.

Last year, empowered by the uprisings against Mr Saleh, Islamists consolidated their control over Abyan.

Mr Saleh's successor, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, has increased cooperation with Washington in its fight against al-Qaeda.

In May he launched a US-backed military offensive to retake the towns.

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