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Yemen Islamists Seize Southern Town, Kill 6 Troops in Center

Yemeni army troops stand guard outside a court in Sanaa during a new hearing in the trial of radical US-Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi, charged in absentia with links to Al-Qaeda and incitement to kill foreigners (File Photo)

Yemeni officials say Islamic militants have seized control of a southern town and carried out a deadly ambush on Yemeni soldiers in a central province, as Yemen's weakened president tries to deal with an escalating political crisis.

The Islamist fighters captured a weapons factory and government buildings in the town of Jaar in southern Yemen's Abyan province on Saturday, initially facing little resistance from security forces who appeared to have deserted the area.

However Yemeni officials say on Sunday government troops counterattacked and a soldier was killed. Yemeni warplanes also flew over the region.

Elsewhere, suspected al-Qaida militants attacked soldiers in the central Yemen's Marib province on Sunday, killing at least six Yemeni troops and wounding four others. Officials say the assailants also seized a Yemeni military vehicle.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has faced weeks of daily mass protests demanding that he step down after 32 years in power. His security forces have engaged in deadly confrontations with opposition activists while also fighting al-Qaida militants who have used lawless parts of Yemen to plot and carry out attacks on the government and the West.

Mr. Saleh convened a meeting of his ruling General People's Congress party Sunday, vowing there will be "no more concessions" to opposition groups who he says are bent on eradicating the party rather than engaging in democratic elections.

In separate remarks to the Al-Arabiya television network, Mr. Saleh said he is prepared to step down "within a few hours" if his opponents guarantee him what he calls a "dignified departure." But, he vowed to remain in charge of his ruling party even if he stands down and insisted on staying in Yemen, saying he is "not looking for a home in Jeddah or Paris."

Mr. Saleh also warned that Yemen is a "time bomb" that could slide into a "civil war like Somalia," across the Gulf of Aden.

Yemeni opposition groups have rejected previous offers by Mr. Saleh to stand down before the end of his term in 2013, insisting on his immediate departure.

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