Yemen drone strikes kills farmer -witnesses

ADEN Wed Jan 15, 2014 9:58am EST

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ADEN (Reuters) - A Yemeni farmer was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Wednesday in what witnesses said was an attack apparently intended for suspected Islamist militants in southeastern Yemen.

Witnesses said the farmer was killed by shrapnel from two rockets fired by the drone early in the morning as he walked home in the village of al-Houta, near the city of Shibam.

A local government official confirmed the report but declined to give further details.

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 network.

Yemen, AQAP's main stronghold, is among a handful of countries where the United States acknowledges using drones, although it does not comment on the practice.

Last month, at least 15 people were killed and five others injured when a drone mistook a wedding party travelling in the central Yemeni province of al-Bayda for an al Qaeda convoy.

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

(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf, Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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