Forces of Yemen's internationally recognized government have taken full control of a key southern city after overnight clashes with separatists, Yemeni security officials said Friday.
Clashes over Ataq, the capital of oil-rich Shabwa province erupted late Thursday night and lasted until Friday morning, said the security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because there were not authorized to talk to the media.
The city of Ataq was previously divided between President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi's government forces and a separatist militia.
The infighting between Hadi's forces and the separatists _ ostensibly allies in Yemen's war against the Shia Houthi rebels _ erupted earlier this month.
The previous year, the rebel Houthis overran the capital, Sanaa, and gained control of much of the country's north.
Separatist militiamen of the so-called Southern Transitional Council, have so far seized strategic southern areas, including the city of Aden and much of the nearby Abyan province.
A Saudi-Emirati commission flew to southern Yemen last week to negotiate a truce between the government forces and separatists but has so far made no progress.
In a tweet posted early Friday, Hani Ben Braik, a separatist leader, would not admit defeat at Ataq but said his militiamen chose not to pursue a battle in the city out of ``respect'' for the truce efforts.
However, Ben Baraik warned his forces would fight back if they were attacked again.
* This story was edited by Ahram Online.