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Al-Qaida says it captures 70 Yemeni soldiers in Abyan's battle

(Xinhua)

13:22, March 05, 2012

ADEN/SANAA, Yemen, March 4 (Xinhua) -- The Yemen-based al-Qaida wing said it captured 70 government soldiers after it overrun an artillery battalion during fighting with government troops early Sunday in the southern flashpoint province of Abyan, according to a statement obtained by Xinhua.

The statement came an hour after government officials said the battle against al-Qaida in Abyan left about 50 soldiers killed and dozens of others injured.

"We captured 70 soldier after we raided the government elite artillery battalion in Dovas, which was responsible for shelling Zinjibar and Jaar over the past months," the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) said in the statement.

"The Mujahideen (holy warriors) also launched a string of attacks, including bombing an explosive-laden vehicle and explosive devices, against several targets of the government military units in al-Koud and Dovas towns, killing more than 50 government soldiers, while we lost two of our fighters and 13 others were injured," it said.

"During the battles today (Sunday), we seized from the enemy ( government troops) a large-scale of different heavy weapons, including a tank, anti-aircraft cannons, Katyusha-propelled vehicles, two ambulance cars and three military pick-up vehicles" it said, adding that they destroyed two tanks, three Katyusha- propelled vehicles and a large quantity of heavy weapons.

Earlier in the day, Yemeni officials said the death toll of the army from their battle with al-Qaida militants in Abyan on Sunday rose up to 50, while dozens others were wounded.

An official of the Interior Ministry told Xinhua on Sunday night that "the death toll among the soldiers has increased to 62. "

The battles erupted Sunday morning after twin suicide bombing attacks targeted two military bases of the Yemeni army forces in the outskirts of Abyan's provincial capital city of Zinjibar and in nearby coastal town of Dovas, off the Gulf of Aden.

The ongoing fighting came less than 24 hours after the resurgent al-Qaida wing launched deadly attacks against the government elite Republican Guards in the southeast province of al- Bayda and the Central Security camp in the southern province of Hadramout.

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