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19 killed in al Qaida crackdown

The latest fighting to uproot al Qaida from southern Yemen has killed 13 militants, as well as four soldiers and two militiamen fighting alongside the army, military officials have said.

The officials say the 13 al Qaida fighters died as they tried to recapture a strategic hilltop overlooking the town of Lawder in Abyan province.

The militants were driven out of Lawder a day earlier in a battle which killed the two militiamen.

Meanwhile, a military hospital official said four soldiers died in fighting in the provincial capital, Zinjibar.

Yemeni officials say US troops are for the first time helping direct a four-front assault on al Qaida strongholds launched on Tuesday.

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