ADEN, Yemen, (Reuters) – Air strikes in southern Yemen killed about 30 suspected al Qaeda members yesterday, local tribal sources said, in the second day of strikes against militant targets in the country.
On Saturday an air strike killed 10 al Qaeda militants and three civilians in central Yemen, a country that neighbours top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the group’s most lethal wings.
The defence ministry said Sunday’s early strikes targeted a remote mountainous region of the south. Its website quoted an official source on the High Security Committee as saying that they were based on information that “terrorist elements were planning to target vital civilian and military installations”.
Similar wording was used to justify Saturday’s strike, in which three nearby civilians were also killed.
Local and tribal sources later told Reuters that another strike hit a car carrying suspected al Qaeda militants in the southern Shabwa province, killing five of them, late on Sunday.
The official source quoted by the defence ministry did not specify the nature of the air strikes, saying only that the strikes happened in the framework of “efforts the Yemeni government is exerting to combat terrorism”. But local sources have said unmanned drone aircraft had been seen above the target areas beforehand.
The United States acknowledges using drone strikes to target AQAP in Yemen, but it does not comment on the practice.
Local tribal sources said about 25 bodies had been transferred from the sites of Sunday’s first attacks to nearby towns. They said at least three separate strikes had taken place after dawn prayers, all targeting al Qaeda camps.