An American drone flys over yemen. — Photo AP

ADEN: Air strikes have killed 24 Al-Qaeda suspects in their strongholds in the country's south and east, the defence ministry and a tribal chief said on Sunday.

A Yemeni air raid late on Saturday killed “16 terrorists belonging to Al-Qaeda network in Kud near Zinjibar,” the extremists' stronghold in the south, the defence ministry news website 26sep.net reported.

Meanwhile, a tribal chief told AFP a US drone killed eight Al-Qaeda suspects when it fired a missile at their vehicle in the eastern province of Shabwa on Saturday, a tribal chief told AFP.

“Al-Qaeda militants were aboard a vehicle on their way from Shabwa to (nearby) Marib province when a US drone fired a missile at their vehicle, killing them all,” the source said.

He said the suspected militants, killed late on Saturday, were five Yemenis and three Arab foreigners.

“US spy planes were also flying over several areas in Shabwa, especially those which are Al-Qaeda strongholds -- Rawdah, Huta, and Azzan,” said the source.

The United States, which says the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is the most active branch of the global terror network, has long made Yemen a major focus of its “war on terror.”

Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen, the self-proclaimed Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law) has exploited a decline in central government control that accompanied Arab Spring-inspired protests that eventually forced president Ali Abdullah Saleh to cede power.

Suicide attacks targetting security forces have intensified since Saleh's successor, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, took office in February and vowed to continue the fight against Al-Qaeda.

Security forces have also been locked in battles with the Partisans of Sharia in Abyan's provincial capital, Zinjibar, since the extremists took over the city in May 2011.

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