Yemeni attack kills four suspected al-Qaeda militants: state news agency

ADEN Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:41pm EDT

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ADEN (Reuters) - Yemeni forces bombed and killed four suspected al-Qaeda militants in the country's restive South, military sources told the state news agency Saba on Friday.

The sources said Yemeni forces late on Thursday "directed a targeted preventive strike on terrorist fighters" plotting attacks, saying it had destroyed weapons stores and several vehicles.

It was unclear whether the attack in the Ataq area of Shabwa province was launched from the air or the ground.

Yemen - the Arab world's poorest state - has been fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, widely regarded as the global Islamist militant group's most active branch, for years.

The government launched an unprecedented ground offensive against the group beginning in late April but barely managed to dent their ability to grab land and strike back at the military.

Arab Spring uprisings swept Yemen's veteran autocrat president from power in 2011 but led to a breakdown of the military and eroded the state's control over its territory.

The United States is concerned about the resurgence of the al-Qaeda organization in Yemen, and has repeatedly launched drone bombings on suspected militants which critics say are imprecise and have often killed civilians.

(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)