Al Qaeda mourns death of top commander in Yemen

DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda’s branch in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) mourned the killing of a senior commander in southern Yemen, a statement distributed on social media showed, after he was reported dead in a suspected U.S. drone strike last week.

Jalal Baleedi was killed by a drone strike as he was travelling in a car with two others in coastal Abyan province, residents said on Thursday. He had run al Qaeda’s combat operations and had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head.

“We extend condolences to our Muslim community and specifically our people in Yemen...regarding the killing of the heroic commander Jalal Baleedi al-Marqishi...who was killed in a crusader strike that targeted him while he was among the sons of his tribe in Abyan province,” the statement said.

During nine months of civil war and a Gulf military intervention in Yemen, the United States has kept up drone strikes against jihadist groups.

Reporting by Ahmed Tolba in Cairo, Sylvia Westall in Dubai; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle