Airstrikes in southern Yemen killed about 30 suspected al-Qaida members on Sunday, local tribal sources said, in the second operation of its kind within two days.
On Saturday an air strike killed 10 al-Qaida militants and three civilians in central Yemen, a country that neighbours top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and is home to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the group’s most lethal wings.
The defence ministry said Sunday’s 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.
The defence ministry did not specify the nature of the strikes, but in both cases local sources said unmanned drone aircraft had been circulating the target areas beforehand.
The US 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 attacks to nearby towns. They said at least three separate strikes had taken place after dawn prayers, all targeting al-Qaida camps.
One official said the militants targeted were among the “leading and dangerous” elements of al-Qaida and were of different nationalities. Eyewitnesses said they had seen al-Qaida militants dragging dead bodies and some wounded people out of the area.
US drone attacks have killed several suspected AQAP figures, including Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born Islamist cleric accused of links to plots to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009 and US cargo planes in 2010.
Saudi Arabia also watches AQAP with concern, since the branch was founded by citizens of both countries and has sworn to bring down its ruling al-Saud family.
An online video has been circulating with AQAP leader Nasser al-Wuhaishi addressing a large gathering of fighters in an undisclosed mountainous region of Yemen and vowing to attack the US.
Yemen has been fighting AQAP but the group, which has attacked military targets, tourists and diplomats in the country and taken over territory for long periods, is proving hard to beat so far.
(Source / 21.04.2014)