November 19, 2013 / 2:35 PM / 6 years ago

Three suspected Qaeda militants killed in Yemen air strike: residents

ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - Three suspected al Qaeda militants were killed in an air strike in eastern Yemen on Tuesday, residents and a local official said.

The residents said a drone hit the militants as they were travelling in a car in the province of Hadramout in an area called Ghail Bawazeer, 45 km (30 miles), from the provincial capital Mukalla.

Residents reported hearing a large explosion and later saw the car engulfed in flames.

Earlier this month two air strikes killed five suspected al Qaeda fighters in the southern province of Abyan, which was once a stronghold for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and other militant groups during an uprising that ousted veteran leader Ali Abdullah Saleh last year.

Ghail Bawazeer itself witnessed an air strike that killed five suspected al Qaeda militants in August after recent warnings of possible attacks.

AQAP is regarded by the United States as one of the most active wings of the militant network, posing a serious threat to Western interests including oil tanker traffic in the Gulf.

Last year, the Yemeni army, with U.S. backing, drove al Qaeda militants and their allies from some of their southern strongholds. But the jihadists have since regrouped and mounted attacks on government officials and installations.

On Monday, eight policemen were killed in an ambush by suspected al Qaeda members near a gas export facility in southern Yemen, residents said.

The United States regularly unleashes drone strikes against AQAP in a campaign that has been criticized by rights groups as executing suspects without trial, while civilians have often been hit.

Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Alison Williams

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