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Old 09-20-2010, 07:34 PM
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Default Thousands of Yemenis flee battle with al-Qaida

Al-Qaida is growing..

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Thousands of Yemenis flee battle with al-Qaida

By AHMED AL-HAJ, Associated Press Writer Ahmed Al-haj, Associated Press Writer 2 hrs 24 mins ago

SAN'A, Yemen Thousands of people have fled a village in southern Yemen where security forces are laying siege to al-Qaida militants, a security official said Monday, signaling an escalation in the government's U.S.-backed campaign to uproot the terror network's local offshoot.

Government forces have moved into the village of Hawta with tanks and armored vehicles and 90 percent of its residents have fled, said Abdullah Baouda, police chief for the surrounding district.

One family fleeing Hawta said forces have shelled the village indiscriminately for the past two days to flush out the militants. Troops also fired on vehicles of residents fleeing the village and another nearby trouble spot, the city of Lawder, killing two civilians and wounding three others, according local government and medical officials.

Hawta is in Yemen's mountainous Shabwa province, one the areas where al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has taken root over the past year and a half beyond the reach of a weak central government that has little control beyond the capital.

The United States is deeply concerned about the threat from Yemen's al-Qaida branch. The group claimed responsibility for the December attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner, linking the plot to Yemen's cooperation with the U.S. military in strikes on al-Qaida targets.

The U.S. has shared intelligence and provided financial aid and training to Yemeni forces, generating backlash among Yemenis who feel their government is too closely allied with America.

Around 120 al-Qaida militants are believed to be taking refuge in Hawta, the police chief said. Three militants were killed and four were wounded in the fighting, said the provincial governor, Ali Hassan al-Ahmadi. One anti-terrorism officer was injured, he said.

"The siege will remain until those elements hand themselves in and we manage to uproot terrorist groups from the region," al-Ahmadi said.

For months, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has hammered Yemen's security forces in attacks on checkpoints and other security outposts.

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Thousands of Yemenis flee battle with al-Qaida - Yahoo! News

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