Aden: A drone air strike blasted two cars carrying suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen in the southern Yemen province of Shabawa on Thursday, killing five of them, a tribal chief and witnesses said.
"Five militants belonging to Ansar Al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic law) were killed in a drone strike" in Shabwa, said the tribal chief.
Witnesses said the drone fired four missiles at the two cars as they travelled through the town of Saeed in Shabwa, a stronghold of the militant group.
"The two cars are still burning and we couldn't get close to them because the drones are still hovering in the area," said a local resident.
The tribal chief said gunmen suspected to have links with Al Qaeda had earlier arrived in four vehicles and "set up a checkpoint on the road linking Saeed and Ataq," Shabwa's provincial capital.
The United States is the only country that has drones in the region and in recent months has been carrying out strikes on Al Qaeda targets in the south and east of the country.
During a visit to the United States last month, Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi acknowledged that drone strikes in his country take place with his approval.
"Every operation, before taking place, they take permission from the president," Mr Hadi told the Washington Post on September 29.
Mr Hadi also spoke of a joint operations centre near Sanaa "that serves as an intelligence nerve center for operations" against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. "You go to the operations centre and see operations taking place step by step," Hadi said.
A security official meanwhile told AFP that "two Al Qaeda militants coming from Abyan province were arrested at Al-Alam checkpoint" east of the main southern city of Aden on Thursday.
Two others were arrested on Wednesday.
Al Qaeda took advantage of the weakness of Yemen's central government in the protests last year against now ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, seizing large swathes of territory across the south.
But after a month-long government offensive that ended in June, most have fled to the more lawless desert regions of the east.
Although weakened, the militants continue to launch hit-and-run attacks on government and civilian targets throughout the country.
Story first published:
October 04, 2012 16:42 IST