Tribe: drone attack kills 30 ‘Qaeda’ suspects in Yemen

A drone strike in south Yemen is the latest in an intensified aerial campaign in the impoverished country

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A drone strike in south Yemen killed at least 30 suspected al-Qaeda militants on Sunday, the latest in an intensified aerial campaign in the impoverished country, a tribal chief said.

An earlier toll said five militants had died in the attack which also wounded many others when it targeted a gathering of militants in the town of al-Mahfad in Abyan province.

“More than 30 members of al-Qaeda were killed and many others wounded,” said the tribal chief.

The unmanned plane targeted a gathering of militants in al-Mahfad where al-Qaeda remains active despite being driven out from main cities in a 2012 army offensive, the source said.

The United States is the only country that operates drones in Yemen, but officials rarely discuss the covert programme.

The strike comes a day after a similar attack in the central Baida province, which killed 10 al-Qaeda suspects and three civilians, according to an official toll released late Saturday.

An earlier toll of Saturday's strike had said that 15 militants were killed.

The drone programme has come under criticism from human rights activists concerned over civilian casualties.

The United States has defended the drone campaign, which allows it to target al-Qaeda without the use of ground forces in lawless areas where authorities cannot or will not act against the group.

Yemen is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden and the home base of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has been linked to a number of failed attacks on the U.S. homeland.

The group has taken advantage of the weakening of Yemen's central government since 2011, when a popular uprising erupted that eventually forced president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down after 33 years in power.

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