SANAA: Four members of the al Qaeda network including a local chief were killed in Yemen Sunday in a strike presumed to have been carried out by a US drone against their vehicle in Maarib province, tribal and police sources said.
“A drone fired a missile at a car which had four al Qaeda militants in it, destroying the vehicle and killing the occupants,” the tribal source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A security source confirmed the toll to AFP, and said one of the dead was a local commander in the extremist network, Sanad Ouraidan al-Aqili.
“Aqili's three companions, whose bodies were blown to pieces, have not been identified yet,” the police source said.
The drone strike, the second in four days, took place in the early evening in the Hami and Al-Damashqa area 17 kilometres east of Maarib city, the same source said.
On Thursday, rockets fired from a drone near the southern city of Jaar in Abyan province killed at least seven suspected members of the terror network, including a local leader, an official in the restive region said.
The official said “several bodies” had been identified after that drone strike, including that of Nader Al-Shadadi, al Qaeda’s leader in Jaar.
On October 4, a drone strike blasted two cars carrying suspected al Qaeda gunmen in the southern province of Shabwa, killing five of them, a tribal chief and witnesses said.
US drones that are deployed in the region have backed Yemeni forces in combating militants of the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who remain active in the impoverished nation.
Al Qaeda took advantage of the weakness of Yemen’s central government during an uprising last year against now ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, seizing large swathes of territory across the south.
But after a month-long offensive in May launched by Yemeni troops, most militants fled to the more lawless desert regions of the east.
On Friday, however, AQAP militants set off an explosives-laden car inside an army base in southern Yemen, killing at least 15 soldiers and wounding 29 others, military officials said.
Eight al Qaeda militants were also killed in the attack, military officials said.
The militants drove through several checkpoints before entering the base of the Yemeni army's 115th brigade in Abyan province, one official told AFP.
They used a Yemen army vehicle which was part of equipment extremists seized last year when they overran towns in Abyan province before the areas were regained by authorities in the May offensive.
Several military sources said the attack was al Qaeda's response to the deadly drone raid the day before.
Officials say the militants have been trying to position themselves near Yemen's main southern cities to carry out operations against the army and the Popular Resistance Committees of local pro-army militias.