Sanaa: The Yemeni Defense Ministry said military troops and armed civilians killed 28 al-Qaida-linked militants in battles on Friday in the southern part of the country.
   
The fighting is the latest in a series of bloody confrontations between government forces and militants in southern Yemen where militants control a patchwork of towns taken mostly last year during the country's political turmoil.
   
The ministry said in a statement that hours of fierce battles drove al-Qaida militants from a town called Zara in Abyan province. Two senior al-Qaida members were also arrested, the ministry said.
   
The ministry claims that nearly 200 militants have been killed in ongoing fighting this week in Abyan including Friday's violence.
   
The Yemeni army has often been out manoeuvred by the al-Qaida linked militants, forcing local residents to take up arms to defend themselves. Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, is one of the movement's most dangerous offshoots.
   
In the city of Lawder, also in Abyan, armed residents drove al-Qaida out in July but the militants have since been trying to regain their foothold in the town, which has a population of about 30,000.
   
Al-Qaida has become the de facto government in the towns they control, and in some places appear to be implementing a harsh version of Islamic law.

(Agencies)