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35 Yemeni soldiers killed in clashes with militants, officials say

From Hakim Almasmari, For CNN
  • NEW: 35 soldiers killed as the government retakes stadium in southern Yemen town
  • Hospital officials say six civilians were killed, 17 injured in the clashes
  • The militants are believed to belong to al Qaeda

(CNN) -- Government soldiers retook on Thursday the Wahda Stadium on the outskirts of the southern town of Zinjibar after a day of fighting clashes against suspected al Qaeda militants, security officials in Zinjibar said.

The clashes took place in the Abyan Governate in southern Yemen.

At least five soldiers were killed in the clashes since Thursday noon, bringing the total death toll of soldiers to 35, the security officials said, adding that at least seven other soldiers were wounded.

The officials said a greater number of militants were killed during the previous seven hours, but would not cite a precise figure.

The military sent reinforcements to the city after the military began losing control of the stadium, which proved decisive, the officials said.

Yemen's battered economy

By late in the day, hundreds of government soldiers were stationed in and around the stadium, they said.

Fierce clashes erupted there Wednesday when suspected al Qaeda militants attacked security forces who were stationed at the stadium.

Hospital officials in Naqeeb Hospital in Abyan said six civilians were killed in the clashes and 17 were wounded.

Yemen has been consumed by unrest for months as protesters have demanded an end to the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's rule. Saleh and other senior officials were wounded June 3 in an attack on the mosque at the presidential palace. Saleh is being treated in Saudi Arabia. Officials loyal to him have said he will return when he has recovered.

In recent weeks, government troops have battled both anti-government tribal forces and Islamic militants, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.