ADEN (Reuters) - At least four suspected al Qaeda militants were killed on Friday in a presumed U.S. drone strike in Yemen’s central al-Bayda province, a local government source said.
The strike took place in the district of Rada’a and killed the local al Qaeda leader there and three others, the government source told Reuters. Tribal sources put the death toll at five.
“The drone targeted a place where they were meeting,” a local source said.
Yemen is the main stronghold of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the militant group’s most aggressive wings. It is among a handful of countries where the United States acknowledges using drones, although it does not comment publicly on the practice.
Yemen’s president said last week that AQAP’s leader had vowed in an intercepted phone call to carry out an attack that would “change the face of history”, and that this was what had led to the temporary closure of many U.S. and other Western embassies in the Middle East, Africa and Asia earlier in August.
Restoring stability to Yemen, one of the poorest Arab countries which lies next door to the world’s top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, is an international concern.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has angered many of his countrymen by giving unequivocal support for Washington’s controversial drone strikes, which have increased under President Barack Obama. He has also asked the United States to supply drones to the Yemeni army.
Drone attacks have killed at least 40 people in Yemen since late July.
The Yemeni army, with U.S. backing, last year drove al Qaeda militants and their allies from some of their strongholds, but the militants have since regrouped and mounted attacks on government officials and installations.
Reporting By Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing By Maha El Dahan; Editing by Mark Trevelyan