Yemen air strike kills 5 civilians – military

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Yemeni warplanes killed at least 30 people, including five civilians, during raids on suspected militant strongholds in the country’s volatile south, officials said.

The army has launched an offensive in the southern province of Abyan, fighting Islamist militants emboldened by months of upheaval in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula nation.

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

An air strike on a building thought to be hiding militants in the city of Jaar in Abyan killed five civilians and injured three, a military official said.

Warplanes also bombed Jaar hospital which militants had occupied to treat their wounded comrades, a local official said. A witness said he saw the bodies of seven militants being carried out of the building for burial.

Militants have seized several towns in Abyan, just east of a strategic shipping strait.

A security official said at least 10 people believed to belong to al Qaeda were killed in an overnight air raid on a suburb of Abyan’s capital Zinjibar, which was seized by militants in May.

Further south, a local official said eight more militants were killed in air strikes on the coastal town of Shaqra, which was taken over in recent weeks despite reports from the army that it was making gains against the militants.

Yemen is mired in armed violence as a political standoff between President Ali Abdullah Saleh and opponents to his 33-year rule drags into its seventh month. Saleh is now in Saudi Arabia, where he sought medical treatment after being injured in an assassination attempt in June.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis have fled violence in Abyan, where clashes between militants and the army erupt almost daily.

In Lawdar, another city in Abyan, tribesmen said they detained a would-be suicide bomber who was wandering around a market apparently looking for a target.

Some tribes have joined forces with the military to try to flush militants out of Abyan. Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch has also tried to cement ties with local tribes.