Three suspected al Qaeda members killed in Yemen drone strike

ADEN (Reuters) - Three suspected al Qaeda members were killed overnight in what local officials believed was a U.S. drone strike in southern Yemen.

Residents and local officials said on Friday the attack took place in Mozno in al-Wadie district of Abyan province. The three killed included the local leader of the militant group, Waddah Muhammed Amsouda, who was meeting the others in a house in the area, they said.

Residents also reported a separate attack on a suspected al Qaeda vehicle, in the same province, but said the number of casualties was unknown.

Abyan is one of several provinces in central and southern Yemen where Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and its local affiliate Ansar al-Sharia operate.

The United States has repeatedly attacked AQAP, using aircraft and unmanned drones in what U.S. officials say is a campaign to degrade the group’s ability to coordinate attacks abroad.

AQAP has exploited two years of civil war in Yemen to recruit followers and cement its dominance in central and southern parts of the poor Arabian Peninsula country.

The Pentagon has said that a March 2 strike against AQAP killed Yasir al Silmi, also know as Mohammed Tahar, a former detainee from the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

Reporting Mohammed Mukkashaf; Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Alison Williams