Western nations reacted with concern Monday to reports that al-Qaeda militants had killed more than 100 soldiers in daring attacks on military positions in the restive southern regions of Yemen.
Militants also said they had captured 70 soldiers in raids which followed suicide attacks on government posts outside the city of Zinjibar.
"We view Yemen as a very important partner on counter-terrorism efforts and we're also very concerned about the clashes that have taken place there, to include AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) advances in certain parts in the country," US Defense Department spokesman George Little told reporters, referring to al-Qaeda's branch in the region.
It was vital to maintain military pressure on the al-Qaeda network in Yemen, he said.
"AQAP is a group that has targeted the Yemeni government and Yemeni civilians for quite a long time and it's important we keep up the pressure on them.
"I think it's important to put this into some context. The Yemeni government has faced challenges in certain parts of the country for some time so I wouldn't necessarily read anything at this point into the stability of the Yemeni government," he added.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton condemned "unreservedly the recent attacks," which were among the deadliest in Yemen in some time.
They were the latest in a spate of clashes following pledges by new President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi to crack down on militants.
dfm/slk (AFP, AP)