Two al-Qaeda suspects among three killed in Yemen drone strike

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A suspected US drone strike on Sunday killed three people in central Yemen, including two alleged al-Qaeda extremists, local government officials said.

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“A drone that is believed to be American targeted a car carrying a man, who is likely an al-Qaeda member, and his wife, resulting in the injury of both,” a government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

“Three people, a civilian and two suspected al-Qaeda gunmen, who were in a vehicle that was heading to the site to assist the wounded were targeted in another strike and killed.”

A second government official in the border region between the central provinces of Shabwa and al-Bayda confirmed the two strikes and death toll.

The US considers al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch -- al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) -- the most dangerous faction of the global extremist network.

A long-running US drone war against AQAP had intensified after ex-president Donald Trump took office in 2017.

AQAP, and other militants loyal to ISIS, have thrived in the chaos of Yemen’s civil war which pits the internationally-recognized government against Iran-backed Houthis.

AQAP has carried out operations against both the Houthis and government forces as well as sporadic attacks abroad, including on the offices of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo in 2015.

But analysts say its abilities on the ground have dwindled, although it still inspires attacks carried out by “lone wolf” extremists or former operatives.

In February 2020, AQAP confirmed the death of its leader Qassim al-Rimi after he was killed in a US drone strike, and appointed Khalid Batarfi as his successor.

Yemen has been wracked by conflict since 2015, when an Arab coalition intervened to back the government after the Houthis seized control of the capital Sanaa.

The conflict has since killed tens of thousands of people, relief agencies say, and triggered what the United Nations terms the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with millions displaced.

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