The Yemeni army shelled suspected hideouts of Al-Qaeda militants in the southern province of Abyan, killing five of them, a local official told AFP on Tuesday. “Five Al-Qaeda fighters were killed and several others wounded in the late Monday bombardment of Al-Quz,” on the outskirts of the provincial capital Zinjibar, which the militants overran last May, the official said. Troops and militants traded machinegun fire early on Tuesday on the city’s northern and eastern outskirts, said the official from nearby Jaar — another militant stronghold. Al-Qaeda militants have exploited the weakening of the central government in Sanaa in the face of 10 months of deadly protests last year to strengthen their presence, especially in the south and east. The United States says the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, is the most active branch of the global jihadist network. AQAP-linked militants, fighting under the banner of Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), swept through a number of southern and eastern towns last year.