Dubai: Suspected US warplanes bombed on Monday several military camps controlled by Al Qaida militants outside Yemen’s city of Al Mukalla, the capital of south-eastern province of Hadramout, residents told Gulf News.

The attacks are the first major air bombing by warplanes on the country’s fifth largest city, seen as Al Qaida’s “capital” in Yemen, since April last year when the militants exploited a nationwide chaos ensued from war against Al Houthis to seize the city.

Witnesses said that the air strikes targeted the headquarters of Brigade 27 near the city’s airport, an air defence camp and the house of the commander of the second Military Region. No information was available about deaths among the militants, but large flames were seen engulfing the targeted camps.

The heavy air strikes triggered exodus as families escaped from their houses to safer areas in the city. A resident who fled his house told Gulf News that the bombing began at 8pm local time (9pm UAE time) and explosions damaged windows of their houses. “The sound of explosions were so horrible,” the witness said on condition of anonymity because of security concerns. On Tuesday morning, the same witness went back to the house and also visited the bombed air defence camp.

“There were three guards when the warplanes hit the camp. They all fled in panic. Now the camp is deserted. The air strikes damaged the camp’s toilets and another small building. The radar remained untouched.”

Residents say that the air strikes were carried by warplanes not drones, citing the louder sounds of the jets.

Since April, many leading Al Qaida militants, including the group’s chief Nasser Al Wuhayshi, have been killed by US drones. The deadliest single attack by US drones since April was last week when the Pentagon said that the US carried out air strikes on Al Qaida training camp in the province killing dozens of fighters and injuring many others. Residents say the camp is located in a remote area called Hajr Mayfa’ and used to be a camp for Special Security Forces.

As the government forces took the offensive in many battlefields against Al Qaida, the Saudi-led coalition announced early this month hitting an ammunition depot belonging to Al Qaida in a village outside Al Mukalla.

Separately, the coalition warplanes have carried out in the last couple of days intensive air strikes on Al Houthi-controlled military camps in the capital and the city of Taiz, southern Yemen. Residents in the capital told Gulf News that missiles caused huge explosions that rocked the city on Monday and Tuesday. In Taiz, the air strikes mainly targeted armed vehicles carrying Al Houthis.