A U.S. drone strike killed three suspected al-Qaeda militants in Yemen at dawn on Tuesday in the second such attack in three days, a tribal source told AFP.
“The car in which the three were travelling — two Yemenis and a Saudi — was blown to pieces and all of them were killed outright,” the source said.
The attack struck in Shabwa, a southern province that borders Abyan, where Saturday night’s strike hit.
“It was carried out by a U.S. drone,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The strike targeted two vehicles on the road between Al-Aram and Al-Saeed.
“Only one vehicle was hit and the other got away,” the source said.
The United States, the only country to operate drones in the region, has sharply increase its use of them against al-Qaeda targets in Yemen over the past two years.
Washington regards al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a merger of militants in Yemen and neighboring Saudi Arabia, as the worldwide jihadist network’s most active and dangerous branch.
U.S. drones strikes in Yemen nearly tripled in 2012 compared to 2011, from 18 to 53, according to the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think-tank.
A U.S. drone strike killed six suspected al-Qaeda militants in neighboring Abyan province on Saturday night, a Yemeni military source told AFP.
The six suspects were travelling in a two-vehicle convoy in the Mahfad mountains, an area of Abyan where the jihadists remain active despite the recapture of most of the province’s main towns in a Yemeni army offensive last summer.
AQAP took advantage of the weakness of Yemen’s central government during an uprising against now-ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011 to seize large swathes of territory across the south and east.
Several AQAP leaders have been killed in U.S. drone strikes, most recently the network’s deputy leader Saeed al-Shehri whose death was confirmed by the jihadists on July 17.
But, although weakened, AQAP still carries out frequent hit-and-run attacks against members of the Yemeni security forces.