UPDATE 4-At least 72 militants killed in Yemen violence

Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:25pm GMT

* Official says Lawdar fight a turning point against militants

* Defence Ministry says militant checkpoints destroyed

* Ministry says Saudi, Pakistani and Somalis among dead (Adds 10 more militants killed)

By Mohammed Mukhashaf

ADEN, April 11 (Reuters) - At least 72 suspected al Qaeda-linked fighters were killed in Yemen on Wednesday, officials and tribal sources said, as the government sought to seize the momentum in its efforts to contain an Islamist insurgency.

Militant group Ansar al-Sharia said however only two of its fighters had been killed in Wednesday's clashes.

Still reeling from a year of political upheaval that eventually unseated former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen is grappling with militants who have been exploiting weakened central government control to spread their influence, particularly in the country's south.

Local officials and residents said the army killed 30 militants in fighting on Jebel Yasuf, a mountain around 10 km (6 miles) from the southern town of Lawdar.

Dozens of people have been killed in the Lawdar area since Monday, according to officials, after Ansar al-Sharia fighters attacked an army camp there.   Continued...

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