The defence ministry's 26sep.net news website had earlier reported that an air raid Sunday night against a “terrorist cell” in the Moudia district of Abyan killed two senior Al-Qaeda members. - Reuters Photo

SANAA A suspected Al-Qaeda chief was killed in a new wave of Yemeni air raids against the branch of the global terror network thought to be behind a botched US airliner bombing, an official said.

Jamil Nasser Abdullah al-Ambari, 25, believed to be the leader of Al-Qaeda in southern Abyan province, was one of two militants killed in the overnight raid, the security official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

Ambari had figured on a list of wanted militants, but the official did not disclose the name of the other dead person.

The defence ministry had said earlier that an air strike killed two senior Al-Qaeda members on Sunday night in Abyan's Moudia district.

“Our air force carried out a raid on terrorist elements who were planning attacks on vital installations (and) two Al-Qaeda leaders were killed,” said a report on the ministrys 26sep.net news website.

Yemen's air force launched a second successive day of air strikes on Monday, targeting a suspected Al-Qaeda training camp in the same area, the defence ministry said.

A brief ministry statement said the raids were carried out in Moudia, but did not confirm whether anyone was killed or wounded in the latest strike.

A security official, who asked not to be named, said the disfigured remains of those killed in the strikes had been transported to the capital for DNA testing, and suggested the death toll could be as high as nine people.

Moudia residents reached by telephone alleged the raids caused civilian casualties, but fell short of giving figures. Some said they fled their homes in fear of being targeted by the strikes.

Jet fighters swooped at a low altitude over the town, part of a province that is dominated by southern separatists who are demanding the secession of the regions of former South Yemen.

The air raids were the first since January 20, when Yemeni warplanes pounded the house of Ayed al-Shabwani, a local Al-Qaeda chief in the province of Maarib, east of Sanaa.

Shabwani himself was believed to have been killed a week earlier along with five other suspects in an air raid in the north of the country.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Yemen's local branch of Al-Qaeda, had denied then that any of the six militants were killed in the attack on three 4x4 vehicles in a remote desert area.

Yemen has intensified operations against AQAP, which claimed responsibility for the failed Christmas Day attempt to blow up a US airliner.

Some 34 suspected AQAP militants were thought to have been killed in an air strike which targeted a suspected training camp in Abyan on December 17. Many civilians were claimed to have been killed in that attack.

On December 24, security officials claimed 34 more AQAP militants were killed in a strike that targeted a meeting of Al-Qaeda members in Shabwa province, 650 kilometres east of Sanaa.

Earlier this month, a security official said 11 men were arrested in the capital Sanaa on suspicion of plotting attacks for Al-Qaeda.

In February, security forces arrested three suspected Al-Qaeda members and killed seven of its leaders, including the groups top commander in Yemen, Qassem al-Rimi, and Abdullah Mehdar, an Al-Qaeda chief in Shabwa province, officials said.

The United States has reportedly supplied Yemen with intelligence and other support in its operations against Al-Qaeda.

But US President Barack Obama has said he has “no intention” of sending in troops. - AFP

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