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Airstrikes hit Yemeni town taken over by militants
Yemeni warplanes bomb mosque, hospital in southern town overrun by Islamic militants
By The Associated Press

SANAA, Yemen (AP) ' Yemeni warplanes launched a series of airstrikes on a southern town overrun by Islamic militants, killing at least seven people Monday in attacks on a mosque, a hospital and a national police building, a witness and a local official said.

The official said dozens had been killed.

Fighters with suspected links to Yemen's al-Qaida offshoot took over the town of Jaar in April, taking advantage of turmoil that grew out of massive demonstrations demanding the resignation of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In June, Saleh was wounded in a bomb attack on his palace and departed for Saudi Arabia for treatment. He is still there, but he insists he will return home, defying international demands that he step down. The anti-Saleh protests and growing political disarray have created a security vacuum in southern Yemen, where al-Qaida-linked militants are battling the military for control. Western nations view al-Qaida's branch in Yemen as one of the group's most violent and dangerous.

Jaar's main hospital was taken over by militants who started treating wounded fighters there and preventing civilians and residents from being admitted. The hospital was hit three times and destroyed, witness Walid Mohammed told The Associated Press.

"The third airstrike that targeted the hospital totally demolished it," he said.

Al-Qaida-linked militants also took over the Hamza mosque in the town. In an apparently mistaken strike, at least one warplane hit a mosque about half a mile (one kilometer) away, shattering one of its walls and killing seven civilians, Mohammed said.

Mohammed Hussein Nasser, a local government official, said dozens of people had been killed and wounded in the strikes on the town. He did not provide exact figures.

A secondary school that was used as a field hospital by militants was also hit by airstrike, he said.

The Yemeni air force also bombed the security headquarters but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

On Sunday, Yemen's Defense Ministry said 17 al-Qaida militants had been killed in airstrikes elsewhere in the south.

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