Suicide bomber kills 4 soldiers in Yemen’s south

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A suicide bomber detonated his car at a checkpoint on Saturday, killing four soldiers in southern Yemen, where the army is fighting militants suspected of links to al Qaeda.

An official said the suicide bomber drove up to the checkpoint on the road between the city of Aden and Abyan province, from which tens of thousands of Yemenis have fled as violence flares.

The suicide bomber was also killed in the attack and ten people were wounded, said the official.

While President Ali Abdullah Saleh recovers in neighbouring Saudi Arabia from a June assassination attempt, militants have seized at least three southern cities, including Abyan’s capital, Zinjibar.

Five militants were killed in the Zinjibar area on Saturday in clashes with the army. A further six militants were arrested, the official said.

Yemen says its forces are making gains against militants in the area, but the army has yet to retake control.

The United States and Saudi Arabia fear turmoil in Yemen will give al Qaeda’s Yemen-based branch more room to launch attacks in the region and beyond.

Opponents of Saleh accuse him of exaggerating the threat of al Qaeda and even of encouraging militants in order to pressure Riyadh and Washington into backing him.

Saleh is clinging on to power despite months of protests against his 33-year rule.