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Al Qaeda-linked militants killed by drone strike in Yemen

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Sun, 20 Jan 2013 09:05 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Tribesmen block road in protest at drones

* New president has openly backed such strikes

* Al Qaeda wing has attempted attacks on U.S. targets

SANAA, Jan 20 (Reuters) - At least three suspected al Qaeda militants have been killed by a drone strike in central Yemen, tribal sources and the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

Yemeni officials will not comment on who exactly carries out such drone attacks or on whose orders, but President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi spoken openly in favour of the strikes during a trip to the United States in September.

However, discontent with the strikes among some Yemenis is growing. Witnesses said armed tribesman, angry at what they said was a drone attack on an area inhabited by civilians, blocked the main road linking the capital of Maarib province with Sanaa.

One witness said a pilotless plane carried out two strikes against a car.

"One of the strikes missed the target and the other hit the car and left the bodies of the three people in it completely charred," the witness told Reuters by telephone from the area.

He said unidentified people evacuated the bodies while the tribesmen blocked the road in protest.

The Yemeni Defence Ministry said in an SMS text message that a number of militants were killed in two air strikes but gave no further details.

Earlier this month, dozens of armed tribesmen also took to the streets in southern Yemen to protest against drone strikes that they said had killed innocent civilians and increased anger against the United States.

Praised by the U.S. ambassador in Sanaa as being more effective against al Qaeda than his predecessor, Hadi was quoted as saying in September that he personally approved every attack. Hadi has not commented on the most recent strikes.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is considered by Western governments to be one of the most active and dangerous wing of the global network founded by Osama bin Laden, and has attempted a number of attacks against U.S. targets.

AQAP offshoot, Ansar al-Sharia (Partisan of Islamic Law), seized a number of towns in the south in 2011 but Yemeni government forces retook the areas in a U.S.-backed offensive in June. (Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Mahmoud Habboush; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Alison Williams)

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