Yemen air raid kills suspected Qaeda militants

Fri Mar 9, 2012 6:27pm EST

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SANAA, March 10 (Reuters) - Air strikes on suspected positions of al Qaeda-linked fighters in southern Yemen killed several militants, a Yemeni military official said on Saturday.

Residents in Bayda, about 130 km (80 miles) southeast of the capital Sanaa said fighter planes late on Friday raided western outskirts of the town, where the Ansar al-Sharia militants, who have been fighting army forces since mid-2011, had been based.

"Flames and smoke could be seen rising from the area," one resident told Reuters by telephone.

A military official said: "The attack targeted a gathering of al Qaeda elements and a number of them were killed." He did not give further details.

Al Arabiya television said Friday's raid was believed to have been carried out by U.S. planes, but there no immediate confirmation of this.

Air raids against al Qaeda's active regional wing have been stepped up in the past few years in Yemen, which has had close security cooperation with the United States.

In late January, at least 12 al Qaeda militants, including four local leaders, were killed in a drone strike in southern Yemen, which a tribal chief said was a U.S. attack. [ID:nL5E8CV075]

The United States has repeatedly used drones in Yemen to attack militants of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, described by CIA Director David Petraeus last year as "the most dangerous regional node in the global jihad".

The United States and Yemen's neighbour Saudi Arabia have been deeply worried about the expansion of al Qaeda in Yemen, where the group controls swathes of land near oil shipping routes through the Red Sea. (Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Firouz Sedarat)

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