Suspected Qaeda leader among three killed in Yemen clashes

SANAA, July 26, 2010 (AFP) - Yemeni troops killed three suspected Al-Qaeda militants, one of them believed to be a senior one, in clashes late on Sunday in Shabwa province, a jihadist stronghold, a security official said.

"Three Al-Qaeda members, one of them a top leader, were killed" in the deadly exchanges with troops guarding an oilfield in the province, the official told AFP.

The militants killed six soldiers in the firefight, a local official told AFP on Sunday.

The attackers, riding in an offroad vehicle, opened fire with machine guns and rockets at the soldiers who were posted near a foreign oil company's operations, the official said.

The attack happened in the Al-Aqla distrct, 45 kilometres (30 miles) east of the provincial capital Ataq.

The area produces between 10,000 and 15,000 barrels of crude a day, provincial official Abdel Mohsen Ben Saad told AFP.

Shabwa province is a stronghold of Al-Qaeda militants as it is the base of the Al-Awalaq tribe of the radical Yemeni American preacher Anwa al-Awlaqi, who is wanted by both US and Yemeni authorities.

Awlaqi has been accused of ties to Al-Qaeda's Yemeni branch.

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