Three suspected al Qaeda militants killed in Yemen drone strike

ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - Three suspected al Qaeda militants were killed in a drone strike in southern Yemen late on Thursday, a local security official and residents said.

The strike in Mudiyah district in Abyan province on the Arabian Sea coast had targeted a motorcycle which the suspected militants were riding, the official said.

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.

AQAP has taken advantage of a more than two-year civil war between the Iran-aligned Houthi group and President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s Saudi-backed government to strengthen its position in the impoverished country.

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

The Saudi-led coalition supporting Hadi has also launched thousands of air strikes against the Houthis which control Yemen’s capital and much of the country’s north.

The Houthis have in turn fired rockets towards Saudi cities and villages. They say their attacks are in response to Saudi strikes on Yemeni cities and villages.

The coalition spokesman said on Thursday that a Saudi pilot had died a day earlier when his plane crashed in the southern province of Abyan due to “technical failure”, the Saudi news agency SPA said.

The war has killed more than 10,000 people.

Reporting by Mohammed Mokhashaf; Editing by Alison Williams