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Yemen troops clash with militants, toll hits 25

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SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni troops defending a key southern city battled suspected al-Qaida militants for a second day Thursday, killing at least seven of them and raising the militant death toll from the clashes to 25, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said the clashes took place in the southern city of Sayoun, one of the biggest in the province of Hadramawt. Security reinforcements have deployed over fears that Yemen's al-Qaida franchise might try to seize the city.

On Wednesday, the military said it had killed 18 al-Qaida suspects in clashes in the same area.

In the spring, the military waged a wide offensive against al-Qaida strongholds in the south. Those who fled under intensive bombardment sought refuge in mountain areas bordering Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in Hadramawt.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is seen by Washington as the most dangerous branch of the global terror network, and has been linked to a number of attempts to attack the U.S. homeland.

Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, has been grappling with a number of regional rebellions in addition to the al-Qaida insurgency. Its forces have received considerable counterterrorism training and assistance from Washington.

The United States has waged a longstanding drone campaign against al-Qaida suspects in Yemen, killing a number of high-ranking operatives but also scores of civilians, drawing criticism from the Yemeni government and human rights groups.

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