Sana’a: At least three Al Qaida-linked militants were killed in the southern Yemeni province of Al Bayda late on Saturday in an apparent drone strike, government and tribal sources said.
Dozens of suspected militants including Al Qaida members have been killed in recent months, many in strikes by pilotless aircraft, as the Yemeni government pursues a US-backed effort to counter Islamist fighters mostly operating in the south.
“Their bodies were charred and the car was completely obliterated,” a tribesman who rushed to the scene said. “Their bodies were not recognisable, but the government says they’re from Al Qaida.”
The state news agency, Saba, reported that the militants were “elements of Al Qaida”. A defence ministry website said the slain militants included a man it described as a senior Al Qaida operative named Saleh Mohammad Al Ameri.
Yemen’s stability is a leading security concern of the United States and Gulf Arab allies because of its strategic position next to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and shipping lanes, and because it is home to one of the most active wings of the Al Qaida network.
There has been an uptick in the past week in aerial attacks on Al Qaida in southern provinces, where the group exploited anti-government protests last year to seize swathes of territory before being driven out by a military offensive in June.
Two alleged Al Qaida-linked insurgents were killed in a drone strike in eastern Hadramout province on Friday, a local security official said. On December 24, at least five people were killed in two drone strikes in Hadramout and Al Bayda provinces in the first such strikes in almost two months.