41 die in battle between army and militants in Yemen

Officials said that by the time fighter jets forced the militants out, 28 soldiers and 13 militants were dead.

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SANAA // More than 40 people were killed yesterday after militants suspected of links to Al Qaeda staged a surprise attack on a Yemeni army camp.

Military officials and medics said the assault was on a base in Al Mellah in the southern Lahj province, a town close to Abyan province, where the militants have controlled several cities since last year.

Officials said that by the time fighter jets forced the militants out, 28 soldiers and 13 militants were dead.

Al Qaeda militants killed about 185 soldiers in a similar attack on an Abyan military post last month.

On Friday, members of Al Qaeda were reported to have sabotaged a 320-kilometre gas pipeline linking Marib province to Balhaf terminal on the Gulf of Aden.Yemen LNG, the country's liquefied natural gas exporter, said the explosion happened in a desert area about 40km north of the plant.

"The production has stopped but the loss of production is expected to be limited to four cargoes as the LNG Plant was due to shutdown on 15 April for annual maintenance," the company said in a statement yesterday.

Earlier on Friday, two US drone attacks targeted Al Qaeda positions in Shabwa province, killing seven people, six of them militants, according to local officials.

Security officials and residents said a missile slammed into a car in Azzan, a town that the militants seized several weeks ago.

The US has stepped up its "secret war" in Yemen, ordering dozens of drone attacks on Al Qaeda hot spots.

A report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at London's City University said last week that nine attacks were carried out so far this year and at least five in March.

It also found that as many as 516 people have been killed in the Yemen attacks. Most were suspected members of Al Qaeda but as many as 104 were civilians.

Yemen's Al Qaeda's branch, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has exploited the political and security turmoil following the country's year-long uprising, managing to take control of large swathes of land in the south and staging increasingly bold attacks on the military.

The militants have overrun cities and towns as the government focused kept well-trained anti-terrorism forces in the capital Sanaa to protect the regime in the capital during protests against former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.