A suspected US drone strike in Yemen’s southeastern Shabwa province has killed five Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants, a local government official said on Tuesday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said a “US drone” targeted the five men late on Monday in Shabwa, a mostly lawless region of Yemen where the extremist group has expanded its presence.
The strike was in the Kharama area between the towns of Ghazzan and Huta, the official said.
The deadly raid comes just days after three local Al-Qaeda leaders were killed in an air strike on their car in the neighbouring province of Bayda, about 210 kilometres (130 miles) southeast of the capital Sanaa.
The defence ministry said Saturday’s raid was conducted by Yemeni warplanes, but a security official told AFP that a US drone was responsible for the attack.
The United States has never formally acknowledged the use of drones against Al-Qaeda in Yemen, considered by Washington to be the most active and deadly branch of the global terror network and a major focus of its “war on terror.”
Al-Qaeda has exploited a decline in central government control that accompanied Arab Spring-inspired protests that eventually forced president Ali Abdullah Saleh to cede power.
Since May last year, the extremist group’s Yemen branch, known as the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), has seized several towns in the lawless south and east, including Zinjibar, capital of the southern Abyan province.