Drone kills three in Yemen's Maareb Province

SANAA Sun Oct 21, 2012 7:40pm BST

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SANAA (Reuters) - Three men thought to be al Qaeda militants were killed in an apparent U.S. drone attack on a car in Yemen on Sunday, tribal sources and local officials said.

The men's car was driving through the south-eastern province of Maareb, a mostly desert region where militants have taken refuge after being driven from southern strongholds.

Yemen, where al Qaeda militants exploited a security vacuum during last year's uprising that ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, has seen an intensified campaign of U.S. missile strikes in recent months, often using the pilotless aircraft known as drones.

Yemen's wealthier Gulf neighbours and Washington are concerned that al Qaeda and other Islamist fighters operating in Yemen could pose a threat to Saudi Arabia and to nearby shipping channels.

Interim president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, praised by the U.S. ambassador in Sanaa as being more effective against al Qaeda than his predecessor, was quoted as saying during a U.S. trip last month that he personally approved every attack.

While Washington usually avoids comment on the strikes in Yemen, the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks U.S. operations, says as many as 56 civilians have been killed this year by drones.

(Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari; Writing By Maha El Dahan; editing by Jason Webb)

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