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Apr 19, 1:18 PM EDT

At least 25 killed in battle for southwest Yemeni province



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At least 25 killed in battle for southwest Yemeni province

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SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Heavy fighting between Yemeni pro-government forces and Shiite Houthi rebels has killed at least 25 people since Tuesday in the southwestern province of Taiz, Yemeni security officials said Thursday.

Yemen has been embroiled in a war between the Iran-backed Houthis and the internationally recognized government, which is allied with a Saudi-led military coalition, since March 2015. The coalition aims to restore the government of self-exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Houthi rebels carried out an attack with heat-seeking, shoulder-fired missiles against pro-government forces led by the nephew of Yemen's late President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the western al-Burj district in Taiz, the officials said.

More than 10 fighters of Brig. Gen. Tareq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh's forces were killed in the attack and another eight were wounded, they said.

In a separate battle in southern Taiz, pro-government forces carried out a fierce attack against the rebels aimed at seizing the town of al-Rahda, military spokesman Ahmed el-Naqib said. The Saudi-led coalition is carrying out airstrikes against the rebels there.

The fighting killed more than 15 fighters from both sides in the past 24 hours, security officials said.

Pro-government forces also seized control of several villages in the Qabbaytah district in the southern province of Lahij after heavy clashes left five Houthi rebels dead, the officials said.

The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak to the press.

Also on Thursday, tribal leaders said Yemeni security forces killed two suspected al-Qaida operatives in the country's southern province of Abyan. The two men were killed in a shootout in a raid on their hideout in the district of al-Wadiah, they said. The tribal leaders spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has long been seen by U.S. officials as the most dangerous offshoot of the global network founded by Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaida and a local Islamic State group affiliate have exploited the chaos to expand their reach in the poorest Arab country.

The three-year stalemated war has damaged Yemen's infrastructure, crippled its health system and pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine. The country is now the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22.2 million people in need of assistance. Malnutrition, cholera and other diseases have killed or sickened thousands of civilians over the years.

The conflict has killed more than 10,000 civilians.

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