June 2, 2014 / 9:06 AM / 5 years ago

Qaeda says kills 'spies' for aiding U.S. drone strikes in Yemen

DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) said it had executed four men accused of planting electronic chips in vehicles to help U.S. drones track insurgents in Yemen, in a video posted on a Yemeni news website and seen by Reuters on Monday.

The 28-minute video showed what AQAP said were four spies confessing that they had planted devices in vehicles which resulted in the deaths of AQAP fighters two years ago in the southern Shabwa province. It said the men were later executed.

A man identified as AQAP security official Abu Islam al-Muhajir said the group had uncovered “several spies who give them (drones) direction on the ground by putting chips in the cars of the mujahideen (fighters)”.

The authenticity of the video could not be immediately verified.

Yemen is the main stronghold of AQAP, one of the Islamist militant group’s most aggressive wings. The United States acknowledges using drones in Yemen but does not comment publicly on the practice.

In April, a series of drone strikes killed about 65 militants in southern and central provinces. Yemen’s army followed up with an air and ground offensive to dislodge AQAP fighters from their main strongholds in the south.

The militant group has mounted dozens of attacks on government officials, security forces and foreigners, exploiting a security vacuum left by an uprising in 2011 that eventually overthrew autocratic president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The group has alarmed neighboring oil power Saudi Arabia and Western countries who fear al Qaeda could use Yemen as a springboard to launch international attacks.

Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Janet Lawrence

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