Middle East

Yemen drone strike 'kills al-Qaeda militants' in east

Yemen's defence minister speaks to anti-terrorism police officers in Balhaf (11 May 2014) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The army says it has killed hundreds of militants since launching an offensive at the end of April

At least six suspected al-Qaeda militants have been killed in a drone strike in eastern Yemen, reports say.

The drone reportedly destroyed the car in which they were travelling in the Wadi Abida district of Maarib province.

State media and local tribal sources said they were members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The strike comes as the Yemeni army continues a major offensive against strongholds of AQAP and its allies in two provinces in the south.

It says it has inflicted heavy losses on the militants, killing dozens of leaders - most of them foreigners - and capturing weapons.

The army regained control of several major towns in Shabwa and Abyan provinces during a similar campaign in 2012, but AQAP members were able to retreat to remote rural areas and regroup.

Since the new campaign began on 29 April, following a series of deadly drone strikes on AQAP strongholds, militants have stepped up attacks on government and security personnel.

On Sunday, a suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden car outside a police station in the southern city of Mukalla, killing 11 police officers and wounding 15 others, the interior ministry said.

Three suspected militants were also killed when they attacked a security checkpoint not far from the presidential palace in Sanaa. Four soldiers were killed in a gun battle in the same area on Friday.

Western interests have also been targeted in recent weeks.

Last week the US temporarily suspended operations at its embassy in Sanaa because of security concerns, a day after gunmen opened fire on three French security guards working with the European Union mission in Sanaa, killing one and wounding another.

Washington also revealed on Friday that a US special operations commando and a CIA officer shot and killed to armed Yemenis who had tried to kidnap them while the Americans were in a barbershop in Sanaa on 24 April, according to the New York Times.

They have left since Yemen with the government's permission.

The killings were initially attributed to unknown gunmen in media reports.

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