Mohammed Al-Sayaghi  /  AP
Members of the Yemeni anti-terrorism force fire at targets during a training drill in a mountain on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, July 11, 2011. The White House counterterrorism chief briefed Yemen's vice president Monday on Washington's push for a swift transfer of power in the increasingly unstable nation, rattled by five months of anti-government protests and a growing threat from al-Qaida, a government official said. (AP Photo/Mohammed Al-Sayaghi)
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updated 7/12/2011 4:36:54 PM ET 2011-07-12T20:36:54

A government airstrike in a patch of southern Yemen overrun by radical Islamists killed five militants, as the country's security deteriorates amid a five-month uprising, a security official said Tuesday.

The airstrike late Monday hit a militant checkpoint between the towns of Jaar and Zinjibar, said the security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

He said strikes were continuing Tuesday, with at least eight hitting the town of Jaar and other areas nearby.

Security across Yemen has unraveled during the uprising seeking to oust longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The ruler of nearly 33 years has clung to power despite pressure to step down from his powerful Gulf Arab neighbors and the United States, which once considered him a necessary ally in fighting Yemen's active al-Qaida branch.

Story: US envoy urges Yemen's president to step aside

The United States and others worry that al-Qaida could exploit chaos in Yemen to step up its operations there.

President Barack Obama's counterterrorism chief, John Brennan, urged on Sunday urged Saleh to sign a proposal that would transfer power to his vice president in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Saleh, who is being treated in Saudi Arabia for injuries suffered during an attack on his compound last month, has repeatedly refused to sign the deal.

Brennan was to leave on Yemen on Tuesday, after a two-day visit during which he met with Yemen's vice president and members of the country's opposition parties and civil society.

Brennan called on all parties to participate to "immediately implement a transition that serves the aspirations of the Yemeni people," said a statement on the U.S. embassy in Sanaa's website Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, members of Saleh's ruling party warned that al-Qaida can take advantage of the continued power struggle in Yemen. Brennan met with party members Tuesday.

"The current crisis showed that neither side can win," said Ahmed Obeid bin Dagher, the deputy secretary general of the ruling party. "If there is no national consensus through dialogue, then al-Qaida will be the alternative."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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