U.S. drone strike kills three in Yemen: local official

SANAA Mon Dec 9, 2013 1:19pm EST

SANAA (Reuters) - Missiles fired from a U.S. drone killed at least three people travelling in a car in eastern Yemen on Monday, a local official said.

A Yemeni news website said the car was driving on a main road in the al-Qatan district of Hadramout province.

"The vehicle and its occupants were completely burned," the official told Reuters, giving no details on who the victims were.

The United States has stepped up drone strikes as part of a campaign against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), regarded by Washington as the most active wing of the Islamist militant network.

Human Rights Watch said in a detailed report in August that U.S. missile strikes, including armed drone attacks, have killed dozens of civilians in Yemen.

It highlighted what it said were six "unacknowledged" U.S. military attacks on targets in Yemen that had either clearly or possibly violated international law.

Yemen is one of a handful of countries where Washington acknowledges using drones, although it does not comment publicly on the practice.

Stabilizing Yemen, which is also struggling with southern separatists and northern rebels, is an international priority due to fears of disorder in a state that flanks top oil producer Saudi Arabia and major shipping lanes.

Last month, the Yemeni Interior Ministry said at least 12 suspected al Qaeda militants had been killed in an air strike in the southerly Abyan province, once a stronghold for AQAP before it was driven out by a U.S.-backed military campaign in 2012.

(Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Kevin Liffey)