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Yemen government troops advance; donors pledge $4 bln aid

Yemeni government troops battled Islamist militants in two southern cities on Wednesday as international donors met in Saudi Arabia to pledge $4 billion to help stabilise a state that has become a base for al Qaeda.

Government forces recaptured parts of the strategically important city of Zinjibar and fought militants in the city of Jaar, leaving 33 militants and nine soldiers dead, officials and residents said.

The militants, who seized large swathes of southern Yemen last year, have given shelter and support to al Qaeda’s local wing, which on Monday killed 100 soldiers in a suicide bombing at a military parade in the capital Sanaa.

Western and Gulf Arab countries have watched with mounting alarm as political crisis in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state gave al Qaeda the opportunity to develop a base from which to launch attacks around the world.

"I assert one more time our support to Yemen to back all the phases of the political initiative to help achieve security, stability and prosperity in facing the threats of extremism and terrorism," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said in Riyadh.

VIDEO: Rich countries pledge $4bn aid to Yemen