ADEN - At least 222 people including 183 militants have been killed in five days of clashes around the strategic south Yemen town of Loder which Al-Qaeda is trying to seize, a security official said on Saturday.
Thirty-seven people were killed on Friday, the official told AFP, among them a child of 12 killed by a shell burst inside the town. During the day, five tribal auxiliaries were also reported killed along with 31 militants.
Loder was quiet on Saturday "after the Al-Qaeda fighters withdrew to positions they occupied before the fighting began, leaving behind several snipers," another military source said of the clashes that erupted on Monday.
The source said the Al-Qaeda militants pulled back to Um Sorra five kilometres (three miles) southwest of Loder and towards Wadhia and Arqub 10 and 15 kilometres away respectively.
Loder lies some 150 kilometres northeast of Zinjibar, the Abyan provincial capital that militants of the Al-Qaeda-linked Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law) overran last May.
The authorities announced on Friday they had deployed around 200 members of anti-terrorist forces to Loder to counter the mounting Al-Qaeda threat.
Firefights erupted on Monday between the army backed by tribal levies and the militants. Since then the extremists have lost 183 men, and the army said it has suffered 14 dead.
Another 24 members of the so-called popular resistance committees were also killed, in addition to the child killed by shellfire.
Al-Qaeda briefly seized Loder in August 2010 before being driven out by the army.
A tribal source said the militants wanted to recapture it because of its strategic location between Shabwa, Bayda and Lahij provinces where Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, is also active.
Abyan province has fallen completely under AQAP control except for Loder and Mudia.
The United States considers the Yemen-based AQAP to be the most deadly and active branch of the global terror network.