French Anzac services wrap up

Anzac Day commemorations in France have wrapped up with a rainy service at the Australian “Digger” Memorial on the outskirts of Bullecourt.

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While the wet weather held off for the dawn service at Villers-Bretonneux on Monday, the sky opened up at the final event of the day and the hundreds of spectators were forced to pull out the umbrellas.

After a procession down the main street, Waltzing Matilda echoing through the small village, a mixed crowd of French locals and Australian visitors stood together beneath the bronze statue for the final service of the day.

Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Leo Davies delivered the commemorative address, describing the 1917 battles at Bullecourt that left 10,000 Australian soldiers dead or wounded.

“This afternoon, as we stand together almost a century later, we do not think of strategic gains, rather we remember the men who waited in the freezing snow for the signal to attack and who risked their lives to save wounded comrades,” he said.

“Today we pay tribute not to battles lost or won, but to our diggers, who endured so much on the Western Front.

“The digger behind me remains to forever watch over the fields of Bullecourt, and our lads, who remain in the care of the people of France.”

Many of those at the service had also attended the earlier Villers-Bretonneux commemoration, which attracted a total of 3100 visitors.

The crowd was significantly smaller than the 6500-strong group that turned out for the same service last year, but the Department of Veterans’ Affairs said it was confident the numbers would increase again next year and for the centenary event in 2018.

Eagles ponder changes for AFL Pies clash

West Coast players are looking over their shoulders in fear of the selection axe – and it’s just the way coach Adam Simpson likes it.

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The Eagles will be aiming to bounce back from last week’s 39-point AFL loss to Sydney when they take on a revitalised Collingwood at Domain Stadium on Sunday.

West Coast have been a dominant force at home over the past year.

But their patchy away form has been a concern, with their most recent win on the road coming in round 16 last season.

Simpson knows his team need to fix their travelling blues if they are to become a genuine premiership contender.

And with the team enjoying a rare good run on the injury front, Simpson has plenty of scope to make changes to his side.

Ruckman Scott Lycett is almost certain to slot straight back in after serving his one-match ban for striking Ty Vickery.

Tom Lamb is pushing hard for a recall after booting five goals in the WAFL last weekend, while midfielder Mark Hutchings is also on the edge of selection.

Fraser McInnes is set to make way for Lycett, while goalsneak Josh Hill is under pressure after booting just three goals from his past four matches.

Simpson will consider making some unforced changes this week in a bid to strengthen the side.

“We don’t want to let these guys go unrewarded when they play well at East Perth,” Simpson told Perth radio station 6PR.

“It should provide a bit of pressure at the senior level. There’s some players in the side now who know there’s pressure coming from underneath.

“I don’t think there’s too many blokes comfortable at the moment.

“There’ll be some guys looking over their shoulder. That’s healthy for the club.”

Collingwood (2-3) bounced back to form with a 69-point trouncing of Essendon on Monday.

The Magpies could be without speedster Travis Varcoe (hamstring) when they head to Perth later this week, while axed forward Travis Cloke is expected to be given another run in the VFL after being dropped for the Bombers game.

Although Collingwood have been patchy this season, Simpson said the confidence gained from their big win over Essendon would make them a dangerous opponent.

“I remember early last year when we beat Port Adelaide away from home – we just got some real belief about what we were doing, and the evidence started to come as well,” Simpson said.

“That’s what Collingwood went through on Monday – they had a really good win on a big occasion.

“I’m sure they’ll take some of that momentum into this week. It’s going to be a real challenge for us.”

Estranged partner arrested after NSW woman beaten to death

A NSW father wanted over the bludgeoning murder of his former partner and an attack that left his son in hospital has been arrested.

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More than 24 hours after the body of Tina Kontozis, 51, was found in her home at Bundeena, south of Sydney, police arrested her partner Stephen Boyd.

Mr Boyd, also 51, was last seen leaving the Beachcomber Avenue home on Sunday afternoon, after neighbours reported hearing screams coming from the upstairs apartment.

Police spotted his vehicle on the Kings Highway at Braidwood just after 4.30pm and he was arrested after a pursuit just before 5pm.

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Mr Boyd was treated by paramedics for minor facial injuries and taken to Queanbeyan Police Station for questioning.

Ms Kontozis and her son had reportedly been granted apprehended violence orders against their estranged partner and father.

She is believed to have been bashed to death with a cricket bat but police haven’t confirmed this and won’t say whether or not a bat or similar items have been seized from the property.

Detective Sergeant Terry O’Neill said Mr Boyd was known to police.

“Mr Boyd is the person we would like to speak to about this incident,” Det Sgt O’Neill told reporters on Monday.

The couple’s 17-year-old son, believed to be an only child, was at home during part of the attack and one of his arms had injuries consistent with defence wounds, police said.

After his mother was killed he sought refuge at the home of a neighbour, who called police.

“The teenager, their son, his condition is satisfactory at this time,” Det Sgt O’Neill said.

“He is in hospital. Obviously he is very upset.”

The teenager changed his Facebook profile on Monday to a Stop Violence Against Women logo, with the caption “For Mum”.

Family members have offered tributes to Ms Kontozis, including her nephew Andrew Kontozis.

“You’ve caused my family and I so much grief today, you’ve literally ended the life of a harmless soul,” he wrote.

Patricia Attard-Daniels said the death of her dear friend was “a sad sad day for the sisterhood”.

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Mumbai too good for struggling Kings XI

An 89-run stand between Glenn Maxwell and Shaun Marsh proved to be in vain as Kings XI Punjab slumped to their fifth defeat of the IPL campaign against the Mumbai Indians.

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Marsh and Maxwell came to the crease with the visitors struggling at 2-32 after Mumbai had posted an imposing 6-189 thanks largely to Parthiv Patel (81) and Ambati Rayundu (65) putting on 136 for the second wicket.

The Kings XI’s response got off to a woeful start with Murali Vijay (19) and Man Vohra (7) departing early.

But Marsh and Maxwell rebuilt the innings before the West Australian departed for 45 from 34 balls after flicking a Tim Southee delivery to Ambati Rayudu at deep mid-wicket.

Maxwell was joined by David Miller at the crease and the South African immediately went on the attack by hitting Kieron Pollard for 10 off the first four ball he faced.

However, Maxwell’s excellent innings was brought to an end when he dragged a Jasprit Bumrah delivery onto his own stumps and departed for 56 from 39 balls.

His departure was the death knell for the Kings’ hopes of victory as the next three wickets fell for just 13 runs with Mitchell Johnson, who had taken 1-43 from his four overs, bowled for a duck by Mitchell McClenaghan.

Miller (30no) clumped a consolation six in the last over but his side finished 25-runs short at 7-164.

The result leaves Kings XI Punjab at the foot of the IPL ladder.

the defeat compounded a bad day for the Marsh and Maxwell who were earlier found guilty of showing dissent during the Kings XI’s loss to Sunrisers Hyderabad on Saturday.

Maxwell was fined 25 per cent of his match fee and Marsh reprimanded.

Australian efforts in Afghanistan not in vain: top NATO general

Amid advances by Taliban insurgents in Uruzgan, a senior US general with the NATO mission in Afghanistan has rejected suggestions blood spilled by Australian forces during a 12-year campaign in the province may have been in vain.

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Australian troops paid a heavy price in efforts to maintain peace and stability in Uruzgan, with 41 soldiers killed and more than 250 seriously wounded before their withdrawal in late 2013.

Brigadier-General Charles Cleveland – the top spokesman for Resolute Support, the NATO mission in Afghanistan – concedes security in Uruzgan has deteriorated since the Australians left.

“The situation in Uruzgan right now, it is serious. And we think that probably over the last year, like in many locations within Afghanistan, it has deteriorated,” Brig Gen Cleveland said.

“Obviously (the Taliban) are present in Helmand. They certainly are still present in Uruzgan.”

Brig Gen Cleveland said the Taliban did not appear “right now” to be threatening Tarin Kowt, where the Australian troops were based.

“But we do see them in the districts that surround Tarin Kowt,” he said.

“It is a concern and it is something that we follow very, very closely.”

The withdrawal in December 2013 brought to an end Australia’s longest overseas combat deployment.

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About 270 Australian Defence Force members remain in Afghanistan advising and assisting Afghan forces.

But Brig Gen Cleveland insists the efforts in Uruzgan weren’t wasted.

“I think it’s a question that comes up all the time and it speaks to really the larger mission … as well as to the national aspect of it because of course the Australian defence forces were heavily engaged in Uruzgan, the British in Helmand, the US in Kandahar,” he said.

“So I think the real message to those who served is that their service really did matter in those places because what it did is it gave the government of Afghanistan a chance.

“It really allowed the international community to help build up the ANDSF (Afghan National Defence Security Forces) to get them into a position where they could defend across the entire nation.”

The commander of Australian forces in Afghanistan, Brigadier Cheryl Pearce, said on Monday that Australia remained committed to achieving long-term security for the nation “to ensure that it doesn’t once again become a safe haven for terrorists”.

Still, the comments from both Brig Pearce and Brig Gen Cleveland come amid advances by the Taliban, and renewed co-operation between the insurgents and al-Qaeda.

Brig Gen Cleveland said the two groups were now “operationally working closer together”.

Late last year, a large al-Qaeda and Taliban camp was found and destroyed in south eastern Kandahar.

“What we found at that location as a part of this very large and kind of advance camp was again al-Qaeda people as well as Taliban people training together, working together,” Brig Gen Cleveland said.

While the al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan is relatively small, with between 100 and 300 militants active, Brig Gen Cleveland said it was essential they were aggressively pursued and destroyed whenever and wherever they pop up.

“Of course the whole reason why we’re here is to make sure that al-Qaeda is not able to operate in ungoverned spaces they have in the past and that they are not able to plan and conduct plans against the West.”

“We believe that is still their main focus.”

“If you believe the idea that there’s two components: core al-Qaeda No.1, controlling their global efforts to hit the West, and again be it New York, (Washington) DC, Bali, wherever the case may be, and then No.2, this AQIS (al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent) focused on Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.”

Brig Pearce said on Monday that Australia was committed financially to the mission in Afghanistan for 2016 and 2017 and the government would make a decision this year on what the military footprint would after that time.

Serbia’s PM claims poll victory, reaffirms pro-EU direction

The lead-up to the poll was dominated by concerns over Serbia’s economy and a growing divide between pro- and anti-European sentiment.

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It’s a gamble that has appeared to have paid off for Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, claiming victory in snap elections.

Preliminary results have shown his Progressive Party, SNS, has won almost 50 per cent of the vote, enough to hand it a majority in the 25-seat National Assembly.

Mr Vucic has described the win as a great honour.

“Serbian citizens again honoured us to lead this country’s government. This is a great honour, which brings great responsibility with it.”

Mr Vucic had called the surprise elections two years ahead of schedule.

He’d said he wanted a clear mandate from the 6.7 million Serbian voters to go ahead with reforms aimed at achieving full European Union membership within the next few years.

His openly pro-Europe stance has put him at odds with the ultra-nationalist Radical Party, led by Vojislav Seselj.

Mr Seselj, who was recently acquitted by a United Nations tribunal of war crimes in the 1990s, has been vocal in his support for a closer relationship with Russia, and away from pro-Western policies.

Program Director at Serbia’s Centre for Free Elections and Democracy, Ivo Colovic, says Mr Seselj’s return has been the main driver behind the party’s resurgent popularity.

“I believe that the last elections in 2014, it was a bad campaign and they were divided in a couple of political parties. This time we have two of those political parties there and they are united in one coalition. The other party, the Serbian Radical Party, have got their leader back from the Hague Tribunal, Vojislav Seselj, he came back from the Hague Tribunal and he brought them a couple of more percent.”

He says Mr Vucic’s desire to join the E-U could damage Serbia’s relationship with Russia.

“That’s the proclaimed goal of every government here in Serbia, no one wants to say okay we will completely turn our back on Russia, no one wants to say that because it won’t be a popular move here in Serbia, because Russia is the only great power that we didn’t have any conflict with. People in Serbia simply like their friendship with Russia. They believe that Russia will help Serbia in every complicated and difficult situation in international relationships. But I believe if Serbia remains on this course towards the EU it will complicate our relationship with Russia a little bit.”

Experts had predicted the Radical Party would pick up just under 8 per cent of votes, making them the third-largest party in parliament.

Mr Seselj has vowed to stay true to his policies.

“Of course, we will fight against all pro-Western political parties. The way they are now in this parliament, where there is going to be four political parties in total, the Radicals will be alone against everyone.”

Prime Minister Vucic has also had to contend with a shaky economy, agreeing to austerity measures as part of a billion-dollar loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

Along with this, the Democrats, also pro-EU, have accused his ruling Progressive Party of giving some voters ballot papers that had already been filled out to guarantee themselves more votes.

But Ivo Colovic says he doesn’t believe the final outcome was influenced in any way.

“We have a very uneducated and unprofessional electoral administration. That is probably the main reason for this allegation and for these not very well-organised elections, but I don’t think those things influenced the result of the election. It was a couple of small cases and small irregularities. We still believe that we need a professional electoral administration, so we hope this experience will move us towards a professional republic electoral commission.”

Bombers need to regroup for Blues

In an AFL season like no other, the challenges keep coming for Essendon and their coach John Worsfold.

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Without their 12 suspended stars and relying on top-up players, the Bombers have exceeded all outside expectations in the opening month, having beaten Melbourne and been largely competitive in losses to Gold Coast, Port Adelaide and Geelong.

They took a significant step backwards in the first half against resurgent Collingwood on Anzac Day, with the Magpies leading by a whopping 76 points at the long interval.

Essendon did at least stem the bleeding by outscoring the Magpies by seven points in the second half of the 22.10 (142) to 11.7 (73) trouncing, but the damage had already been done.

“Three out of five of our starts have been pretty average and two have been OK,” said Worsfold.

“That puts the weighting in favour of we’ve got to do something about it.

“We haven’t done anything different in the other two weeks but we need to address why that may be the case.”

The sluggish starts are sure to be a major topic heading into Sunday’s clash against traditional rivals Carlton, who claimed their opening win of 2016 away to Fremantle on Sunday.

Having spent several years as a Blues assistant coach, Worsfold is well aware of the depth of the rivalry between the two clubs.

“I know from being at Carlton in the past it’s seen as a really traditional clash, being neighbouring suburbs,” said Worsfold.

“A few Essendon people even back before Christmas did say to me that they look forward to the Carlton clash as much as any clash throughout the year.”

The match will have an added edge as the two clubs were widely predicted to fill the bottom two spots on the ladder in 2016.

Tigers’ morale hit by another poor start

Richmond star Jack Riewoldt admits morale isn’t great at Punt Road after another disappointing start to an AFL season but he backed the Tigers to pull off their almost-customary Houdini act to play finals for a fourth year running.

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In the past three seasons Richmond have started with win-loss records of 2-4, 2-6 and 3-3 before going on to make the finals.

The Tigers slumped to a 1-4 record after Sunday night’s 33-point defeat to Melbourne and Riewoldt admitted another poor start had taken a toll on morale.

“I wouldn’t say it was great,” Riewoldt told Triple M.

“We’re 1-4 so realistically any side that’s 1-4 isn’t going to be feeling that great about themselves and how they’re going.

“But it’s AFL footy and unfortunately we’ve been in this position before and we’ve fought our way out of it.”

Riewoldt sustained an ankle injury against the Demons but is confident he will be fit to play Port Adelaide at the MCG on Saturday night.

Brett Deledio was a late withdrawal from the team against Melbourne, but is considered a certainty to return from a quad injury to his first game of the season against the Power.

All Australian defender Alex Rance will miss if he accepts a two-game ban for his crude hit on Jack Watts in the dying minutes of the disappointing loss.

Skipper Trent Cotchin has borne the brunt of the criticism leveled at the Tigers for their poor start and Riewoldt took the opportunity to fire back at a perceived media bias against him.

“I could probably go into a few words on what I think about the way he’s been treated with a few expletives,” he said.

“He’s copping it at the moment and he’s copped it ridiculously unfairly from outside the football club and in the media.

“If you look at the performances he’s putting up on field, I can’t disagree any more with the way hes been treated in the media.

“It’s probably been a bit of a witch hunt.”

‘Expect the fallout to become worse’: Chernobyl 30 years on

The fear of radiation still disturbs the people of Sweden even 30 years on from the Chernobyl disaster.

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There is talk of cancer clusters caused by the radioactive particles that blew on to the country with on the winds and rain in the days following the massive nuclear explosion and fire at reactor number four.

With the Chernobyl reactor deep within the secretive Soviet Union in the Ukrainian town of Pripyat, it took a Swedish nuclear worker to raise the first alarm about the nuclear disaster.

Walking into the Forsmark nuclear power plant near the Swedish town of Uppsala, Clifford Robinson set off a radiation detection alarm.

“They thought first of all there was a leak at the power plant itself and they started to investigate this,” Uppsala University applied nuclear physics researcher Mattias Lantz told SBS News.

“Later on the same day the authorities realised this must come from somewhere else, some other country and then they started to back track on winds, weather patterns and most likely it was somewhere in the Soviet Union.”

As Swedes realised the extent of what happened, a fear gripped the country – a fear of radiation and what would happen next.

“From a personal perspective I was a teenager at the time, I was very afraid about this,” Dr Lantz said.

“I lived in a small town right on the border where some of the [radioactive] rain fell and I always believed this myth in small communities: there’s so many cancers here and it’s due to the rain from Chernobyl.

“Many people have this in their mind, and so do I, but I work with this and know this doesn’t make sense.

“The Chernobyl accident itself was an explosion in a type of reactor that no other country in the world ever used because it’s inherently unsafe so the rest of the world decided this is not the reactor type we would like to build.”

There were also fears for Sweden’s agriculture industry and the country’s food sources.

“This was in spring, late April, so the growing season had not really started but farmers were told to keep the cows inside, not let them out and give them other fodder than them grazing outside,” Dr Lantz said.

“There were limitations put in effect and monitoring was put in place immediately so no radioactive milk was ever distributed in the stores and so on, so there has been no thyroid cancer increase in Sweden.

“There was some concern with the long term effect of radioactive cesium, which has a 30 year half-life, so we have limitations on food for general staple food there’s a certain limit and then there’s a slightly higher limit for mushrooms, berries, reindeer meat, roe deer meat – things that people don’t eat very often.”

Investigating lasting health effects

In the years since the disaster many studies have been done in an attempt to determine the lasting effects of the massive nuclear fallout.

Uppsala University senior applied nuclear physics lecturer Michael Osterlund told SBS News in countries outside of the immediately affected area, including Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, the health impact was low.

“Depending on which model you use you can calculate that there should be a number of incidents of cancer, but in real life you cannot detect that above the background of all other cancer cases that are taking place,” he said.

“There has been no medical affect that has been measureable in the Swedish population.”

Dr Lantz said a formula used by scientists to assume the likely impact on certain populations, called linear no threshold hypothesis, showed there would be about 100 extra cancer cases over 60 years in a country like Sweden.

“Since we have 30,000 people every year getting cancer you will never see this in the statistics,” he said.

However University of Melbourne associate professor Tilman Russ told SBS News the more scientists studied the fallout from Chernobyl, the worse the results became.

“We can expect the fallout to become worse,” he said.

“I’ve worked in medicine and public health for close to 40 years and no other area, no other industry has been inappropriately subjected to so much interference and manipulation by governments and industry groups to down play the risks.”

Dr Russ, who is also the co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, said recent research had found small doses of radiation were more harmful than first thought.

“Normal background radiation from the environment, from the stars, from rocks, from food and water is around two to three millisieverts per year,” he said.

“It is recommended workers in the nuclear industry receive no more than 20 millisieverts and members of the public no more than one millisieverts of additional radiation.

“Research on nuclear industry workers showed even a dose as low as one millisieverts per year, which is less than the background radiation, increased their risk of cancer demonstrably.”

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He said people who received a dose of between 200 and 300 millisieverts would start to show health effects and a dose of 500 millisieverts would show itself in symptoms of radiation sickness including nausea, diarrhoea and hair loss.

The risk of developing leukaemia, thyroid cancer and other cancers was likely to increase after even low radiation doses, Dr Russ said, along with associated health problems that accompanied nuclear disasters.

These included depression, increased rates of alcoholism, heart and respiratory disease, mental health problems and suicide along with social isolation, dislocation and unemployment.

In the area surrounding the Chernobyl power plant more than 6000 children developed thyroid cancer in the wake of the disaster while workers and emergency services personnel succumbed to radiation sickness in the days and weeks following the explosion.

Dr Russ said the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which works with the World Health Organsation, had found it was most likely the Chernobyl disaster had resulted in between 30,000 to 40,000 extra cancer deaths worldwide.

He said authorities like the International Atomic Energy Agency had deliberately down-played the risks associated with nuclear power and the results of nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima, where residents were still being told doses of under 100 millisieverts were not dangerous.

“The more we know about radiation and health the worse it looks,” he said.

“Cancers don’t have any particular signifier that identifies them as having been caused by radiation.”

More comprehensive cancer and health records need to be kept to allow doctors and scientists to identify when there has been a spike in cancers and diseases that could be linked to nuclear disasters, Dr Russ said.

However this was not done at the time of Chernobyl, or even Fukushima, so there are not sufficient records to conclusively prove any link between radiation and cancer.

What next for nuclear power?

In the wake of the Chernobyl disaster and its fallout, Sweden passed new laws that prevented any new nuclear power plants ever being built and four of the country’s 10 reactors are due to be decommissioned in the coming years.

Dr Osterlund said nuclear research was working at funding ways to reuse spent fuel rods to reduce nuclear waste and allow the nuclear power to be more widely used as an alternative to fossil fuels.

“There is research going on when it comes to generation four reactors which try to address some of these issues that people see with nuclear power today, for instance how to handle the waste,” he said.

“In generation four we would like to use the spent nuclear fuel as new fuel for these reactors in order to reduce the amount of long-lived isotopes that have to be taken care of for thousands of years.”

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Al-Qaeda loses main oil terminal in Yemen

Yemeni government forces and their Emirati allies have taken back control of the country’s largest oil export terminal from al-Qaeda, security officials say, a day after routing the militants from their nearby stronghold.

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The lightning advance is a shift in strategy for the Saudi-led coalition forces, which for over a year have focused their firepower on the Iran-allied Houthis who had seized the capital Sanaa and driven the government into exile.

The civil war has killed more than 6200 people, displaced more than 2.5 million people and caused a humanitarian catastrophe in one of the world’s poorest countries.

A fragile ceasefire between coalition forces and the Houthis has been in operation since April 10.

In 48 hours, the coalition deprived the Islamist militants of a lucrative mini-state they had built up over the course of a year, based around the southwestern port city of Mukalla.

About 80 per cent of Yemen’s modest oil reserves were exported in peacetime from the Ash Shihr terminal, 68 km eastwards along the coast from Mukalla, which has been shut since the war began and al-Qaeda seized the area.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – seeking official recognition as a quasi-state as well as trying to get rich – tried last year to export the 2 million barrels of oil stored there with the approval of Yemen’s government, which refused.

In a separate incident, residents said that an unidentified warplane believed to belong to the Saudi-led coalition fired missiles at a car in the city of Azzan in Shabwa province killing at least eight suspected al-Qaeda militants travelling on the vehicle.

Azzan is part of a string of southern Yemen towns seized by al-Qaeda since last year as Hadi supporters and their Houthi enemies fought each other.

A statement by the mostly Gulf Arab coalition said on Monday its offensive had killed 800 al-Qaeda fighters and several leaders, though Mukalla residents said the number appeared unlikely and the group withdrew largely without a fight.