Drone strike kills al-Qaeda suspects in Yemen
The attack took place as the jihadists were traveling in one vehicle towards the Shabwa province in the south
An air strike killed 15 suspected al-Qaeda militants, along with three civilians, in the central al-Bayda province - a stronghold of the jihadist group - on Saturday.
The attack took place as the jihadists were traveling in one vehicle towards the Shabwa province in the south, witnesses said, while the three civilians were in another close-by car.
The U.S. is the only country that operates drones in Yemen.
Yemen’s President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi defended in March the use of drones against al-Qaeda in the country.
Drone strikes "have greatly helped in limiting al-Qaeda activities, despite some mistakes, which we are sorry about," Hadi told the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.
Drone attacks killed dozens of militants during the past year, in an intensified campaign against the extremist group. The program allows U.S. to combat al-Qaeda without using ground forces.
However, the drone program was heavily criticized by human rights activists, who were concerned over civilian casualties.
According to the U.N., 16 civilians were killed and at least 10 others were wounded when airstrikes targeted two weddings last December. Civilian victims were mistakenly identified as members of al-Qaeda; the international organization quoted local security officials as saying.
After the incident, Yemen’s parliament voted to ban the drone strikes, lawmakers are unlikely to be able to stop the U.S. campaign on their land, analysts say.
Members of al-Qaeda frequently attack security forces in the country. Last Tuesday, al-Bayda’s vice governor and an intelligent officer were shot dead by al-Qaeda suspects.
(With AFP and Reuters)