ADEN, April 2 (Reuters) - Two Yemeni soldiers and two al-Qaeda militants were killed on Tuesday during clashes in Yemen's western province of Al-Hadida, ministry of interior said on its website.
An official source from the ministry said security forces detained four al-Qaeda militants during the early hours of the day. Fresh clashes then erupted, leading to the fighting in which the soldiers and militants were killed.
The remaining al-Qaeda members fled to nearby mountains, leaving behind a car full of weapons, the source added.
Yemen has been in turmoil since mass protests forced long-term leader Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down in 2012. His successor, Abd-Rabbu Mansour, Hadi has been struggling to restore order.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is one of the most active branches of the network founded by Osama bin Laden and militants have plotted attacks against international airlines from there.
It is allied to a large group of local militants who have staged an insurgency in southern Yemen for three years, seizing areas of land, killing soldiers and bombing government and foreign targets. The authorities typically describe both groups as al Qaeda.
Maintaining stability in impoverished Yemen, which is also struggling with insurgents in southern and northern regions, is a priority for Washington and Gulf states because of its proximity to major shipping routes and Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter. (Reporting By Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing By Mirna Sleiman; Editing by Angus McDowall and Ron Popeski)