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Official says FBI director Mueller in Yemen for talks on the fight against al-Qaida
SANAA, Egypt (AP) ' Yemen says FBI director Robert Mueller has held talks with Yemen's new president on the fight against al-Qaida militants in the impoverished Arab nation.
Yahya al-Arasi, a spokesman for President Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi, said Mueller and the Yemeni leader had a 45-minute meeting on Tuesday in which they discussed the battle against al-Qaida, particularly in the southern Abyan province.
The meeting came hours after news that Yemeni government forces fought their way into the center of Zinjibar, Abyan's provincial capital that has been held by al-Qaida since May last year.
The United States says al-Qaida's Yemen branch is the terror network's most dangerous.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
SANAA, Yemen (AP) ' Yemeni government troops have fought their way into the center of an al-Qaida-held city in the lawless south after a fierce, six-hour battle that ended early Tuesday, military officials said.
The soldiers, backed by artillery and tanks, launched their push into Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan, under the cover of darkness, the officials said.
By the time they made it to the heart of Zinjibar, dozens were killed and wounded on both sides, the officials said, though they gave no exact figures. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
At least four tanks, captured earlier by al-Qaida fighters, were destroyed in the fighting, according to the officials.
Al-Qaida militants seized Zinjibar last May when fighters from the terror network's Yemeni branch took advantage of the internal political turmoil in the impoverished nation to capture several cities and towns in the south.
The latest fighting is part of a stepped up efforts by government forces in their fight against al-Qaida's dangerous Yemen branch. President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who took over from Yemen's longtime authoritarian leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, has vowed to make the fight against the terror network a priority.
In a separate development, Saleh's half brother, air force commander Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, finally gave up his command Sunday and left his office at the military section of the international airport at Sanaa, the capital. Al-Ahmar had previously rejected Hadi's decision to replace him and refused to leave.
Al-Ahmar's dismissal from his longtime command of the air force was part of Hadi's shake-up of the armed forces, weeding out Saleh loyalists and relatives from key posts.
Hadi took over from Saleh in February after a year of protests against the authoritarian rule of the former president.
The U.S. ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein, said over the weekend that the shake-up has helped the fight against al-Qaida. The United States has over the years poured millions of dollars into Yemen's military to help it fight the militants, but Saleh used most of the money to bolster military units loyal to his rule.