ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - At least three al Qaeda-linked militants were killed in an air strike in Yemen on Monday as the government pressed ahead with an offensive against Islamist insurgents in the south of the country.
A local official in the southern Shabwa province said Yemeni warplanes had fired rockets on a vehicle, killing six militants from Ansar al-Sharia, a group affiliated with al Qaeda.
But the group itself said in a statement that only three of its militants had been killed in the attack which it said was carried out by a U.S. drone, not warplanes.
Washington has repeatedly used drones to target Yemeni militants in order to try to keep a lid on a threat it wants the government to take more seriously.
Government troops launched a fresh offensive against insurgents after they attacked a military camp outside the southern city of Lawdar last week. More than 200 people have been killed in fighting and airstrikes.
Reeling from a year of political upheaval that eventually unseated Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president, Yemen is struggling to defeat militants who have exploited weakened central government control to expand their influence.
An Islamist insurgency, particularly in the south, is one of several challenges facing Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the new president. Hadi also faces challenges from Shi‘ite Muslim rebels in the north and southern secessionists.
Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Andrew Osborn