* Strikes in south kill 30 suspected al Qaeda members
* Ten militants, three civilians killed a day earlier
* Govt says attacks were planned on 'vital installations'
(Adds another air strike, defence ministry statement)
By Mohamed Mukhashaf
ADEN, Yemen, April 20 Air strikes in southern
Yemen killed about 30 suspected al Qaeda members on Sunday,
local tribal sources said, in the second day of strikes against
militant targets in the country.
On Saturday an air strike killed 10 al Qaeda militants and
three civilians in central Yemen, a country that neighbours top
oil exporter Saudi Arabia and is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula (AQAP), one of the group's most lethal wings.
The defence ministry said Sunday's early 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.
Local and tribal sources later told Reuters that another
strike hit a car carrying suspected al Qaeda militants in the
southern Shabwa province, killing five of them, late on Sunday.
The official source quoted by the defence ministry did not
specify the nature of the air strikes, saying only that the
strikes happened in the framework of "efforts the Yemeni
government is exerting to combat terrorism". But local sources
have said unmanned drone aircraft had been seen above the target
The United States 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 first attacks to nearby
towns. They said at least three separate strikes had taken place
after dawn prayers, all targeting al Qaeda camps.
The official source said the militants targeted were among
the "leading and dangerous" elements of al Qaeda and were of
Eyewitnesses said they had seen al Qaeda militants dragging
dead bodies and some wounded people out of the area.
AQAP TOUGH TO BEAT
U.S. drone attacks have killed several suspected AQAP
figures, including, in 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born
Islamist cleric accused of links to the attempted bombing of a
Detroit-bound airliner in 2009 and U.S. cargo planes in 2010.
U.S. congressman Michael McCaul of Texas, the chairman of
the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security,
said AQAP posed "probably the greatest external threat to the
"And so I think the fact the administration now is going
aggressively against these terrorists ... is a very positive
sign," said McCaul, appearing on the Sunday morning ABC News
programme "This Week".
U.S. officials credit the drone strategy for the fact that
AQAP is no longer able to control territory in Yemen as it did
in 2011. But critics, including some Yemenis and U.S.
politicians, say the strikes and civilian casualties are
increasing sympathy for AQAP and resentment against America.
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
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
(Additional reporting by Jim Loney in Washington; Writing by
Yara Bayoumy and Maha El Dahan; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and