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Blast, drone kill 13 al Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Sun, 20 Jan 2013 12:50 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* 10 suspected al Qaeda operatives killed in blast, 3 in strike

* Tribesmen block road in protest at drones

* New president has openly backed such strikes (Adds 10 militants killed in explosion)

SANAA, Jan 20 (Reuters) - More than 10 suspected al Qaeda operatives were killed by an explosion in a house in south Yemen where they were making bombs and at least three others died in a drone strike, tribal and official sources said on Sunday.

A bomb ripped through a house in the province of al-Bayda on Saturday night, the state news agency Saba and a local official said. Three other suspected militants were killed in a drone strike in the central province of Maarib, also on Saturday, tribal sources and the Ministry of Defence said.

Yemen's government has been fighting a powerful branch of al Qaeda that took advantage of chaos in the impoverished state two years ago during a popular uprising against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

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.

The house destroyed in al Bayda had been used for making bombs, an official from the area told Reuters on Sunday.

"We heard a massive explosion that terrified people and when we went to the house it was destroyed and everyone there was dead," the official said.

In Maarib, a pilotless plane carried out two strikes against a car, a witness said.

"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 tribesmen blocked the main road linking the capital of Maarib province with Sanaa on Saturday after the strikes.

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 took to the streets in southern Yemen to protest drones they said killed innocent civilians and fed anger against the United States.

President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi spoke openly in favour of the strikes during a trip to the United States in September.

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.

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, Alison Williams and Jason Webb)

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