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Published: Sunday March 9, 2014 MYT 1:10:03 AM
Updated: Sunday March 9, 2014 MYT 1:10:06 AM

Two Yemeni soldiers, four militants killed in south - ministry

ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - At least two Yemeni soldiers and four militants were killed in a clash on Saturday when al Qaeda fighters tried to attack a military compound in southern Yemen, the Defence Ministry said.

The clash occurred when al Qaeda militants approached the compound in Lawdar town with suicide belts, hand grenades and explosive devices, the ministry said on its website. Soldiers and members of neighbourhood patrols confronted them.

The website earlier put the toll at one dead militant and two Yemeni soldiers. It later quoted a military source as saying four "terrorists" had been killed, one of whom had Saudi nationality and went by the name "Abu Musab".

A third soldier was wounded in the attack in southern Abyan province.

Yemen is home to one of al Qaeda's most lethal franchises, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The group has focused much of its attacks in Yemen on security forces.

Stabilising Yemen is an international priority given its proximity to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.

The country, which has been hit with lawlessness since mass protests in 2011 forced long-time leader Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down, is also grappling with an offensive by the Shi'ite Muslim Houthi movement to extend its control over the north.

On Thursday, tribal sources said four people were killed in clashes between tribesmen and Houthi rebels in the Sanaa suburbs. It was not immediately clear who died.

Separately, unknown assailants blew up an oil pipeline in southeast Yemen late on Friday, the Yemeni website al-Mukallah Star reported. Tribal sources confirmed the attack.

The pipeline has a capacity of 120,000 barrels per day and has been blown up several times in the past, disrupting an important source of revenue for the impoverished state.

Disgruntled tribesmen often carry out such attacks to pressure the government to provide jobs, settle land disputes or free relatives from prison.

(Reporting by Mohamed Mukhashaf and Mohamed Ghobari; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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