Militants Attack Southern Yemeni Town

Posted June 15th, 2011 at 10:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Several hundred al-Qaida linked militants in Yemen have raided government buildings in the southern town Houta and briefly seized key areas of the provincial capital.

The armed group, Ansar al-Sharia, or Supporters of Sharia , launched the attack before dawn Wednesday. Witnesses and medics say two security personnel were killed and at least three wounded in the fighting.

After several hours, the militants withdrew to new positions in farmlands just outside the city's southern outskirts.

The attack raises concerns of increased violence from Islamist groups throughout Yemen's restive south in the wake of ongoing anti-government protests and the absence of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Militants seized two other southern cities in May, including Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province. Continued fighting there has forced hundreds of civilians to flee to the port city of Aden.

President Saleh is recuperating in Saudi Arabia from injuries sustained in a bomb attack on his presidential compound earlier this month. Yemen's state-run news agency says the president told Saudi government officials by telephone Wednesday that his health was improving.

Anti-government protests continue daily throughout the country. Demonstrators have demanded that Mr. Saleh step down and are calling for a transitional council that excludes members of the current government.

On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of Yemenis rallied in major cities. In the capital, Sana'a, a huge crowd swelled outside the home of Yemen's acting leader, Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur Hadi – a day after Yemen's political opposition held talks with him on a possible transition plan.