Sana’a: Suspected US drone strikes killed three Al Qaida militants on Sunday in the northern Yemeni province of Sa’ada, tribal sources told AFP.
“Three Al Qaida suspects were killed in three separate drone strikes in Sa’ada,” a tribal source said, adding the raids targeted Wadi Al Abu Jabara, an Al Qaida bastion some 250km north of the Yemeni capital.
A second tribal source confirmed the toll, adding that Sunday’s strike “was the first by a US drone in the northern Sa’ada province in recent months.”
The United States is the only country that operates drones in the region.
Yemen’s mountainous north is a stronghold of Al Houthis, Shiite Zaidi rebels who in recent weeks have released several statements denouncing the presence of “unmanned drones” flying over their territory, according to the tribal source.
Since 2004, the Al Houthis have fought six wars with Yemen’s central government before signing a truce in February 2010.
Today they are embroiled in deadly sectarian clashes with Salafists who are trying to tighten their grip on the traditionally Shiite north.
Sunday’s drone strike was the fourth this month in Yemen.
On October 21, four Al Qaida members, including a local chief, were killed by a suspected US drone strike on their vehicle in Yemen’s eastern Maarib province.
Four days earlier, rockets fired from a drone near Jaar in the southern Abyan province killed at least seven suspected Al Qaida operatives.
On October 4, a drone strike blasted two cars carrying Al Qaida gunmen in the south, killing five of them.
US drones that are deployed in the region have backed Yemeni forces in combating militants of Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the name given to the group’s Yemen branch, considered by Washington to be the most active and deadly.
They took advantage of the weakness of Yemen’s central government during an uprising last year against now ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, seizing large swathes of territory across the south.
But after a month-long offensive in May launched by Yemeni troops, most militants fled to the more lawless desert regions of the east.