Drone kills two Qaeda militants in south Yemen-officials

SANAA Mon Dec 24, 2012 1:43pm GMT

SANAA (Reuters) - At least two militants were killed on Monday in what security and local officials said was a U.S. drone strike on a suspected position of al Qaeda-linked insurgents in southern Yemen.

Washington has escalated its use of drones to kill suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen, where the group exploited anti-government protests last year to seize swathes of territory in the south of the country before being driven out by a military offensive in June.

The officials said the drone hit a vehicle in a town in southern al-Bayda province, killing at least two suspected militants. One of those killed in the attack was a Jordanian citizen, a local official and a resident said.

Family members of one of the men, Abdul Raouf Naseeb, confirmed he was one of those killed. According to several security experts who monitor the group, Naseeb narrowly escaped a U.S. drone strike in November 2002 that killed several al Qaeda operatives.

Yemen's stability is a priority for the United States and its 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 al Qaeda.

The U.S.-backed military offensive drove the militants out of areas they seized in the south but has not prevented them from launching attacks that have dealt damaging blows to the army and security apparatus.

Naseeb had fled to al-Bayda from southern Lawdar province during a U.S.-backed military offensive in Lawdar earlier in 2012.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by William Maclean and Alison Williams)

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