Yemen's army has recaptured the last al-Qaeda stronghold in southern Abyan province, officials and residents said.

This is the third jihadist bastion in the south to fall in the space of a week, a military official said on Friday.

"The army has taken control of Shuqra," said the official, adding that "troops have taken positions in the centre" of the coastal city while fighters fled.

At least 17 fighters have been killed during the clashes, while, the government troops continued fighting in the adjacent province of Shabwa in their bid to recapture al-Qaeda's last bastion, Azzan.

The port town was the last major al-Qaeda stronghold in Abyan province to fall to government forces, which launched an all-out offensive last month that had already resulted in the recapture of the towns of Jaar and Zinjibar.

The rout of the Islamists from of Shuqra puts an end to their year-long reign in Abyan, during which they governed large swathes of the province according to strict Islamic sharia rules.

The al-Qaeda fighters had captured three towns in the southern Abyan province amid a power vacuum last year as popular protests weakened former President Ali Abdullah Saleh's grip on power.

Source: Agencies