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U.S. drones and Yemen army kill nine al-Qaeda militants

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Nine suspected al-Qaeda militants were killed in an artillery attack by the Yemeni army backed by U.S. drone strikes on their strongholds in the country’s south, a local official told AFP Monday.

Three extremists were killed when U.S. drones fired missiles late on Sunday targeting their weapons hideouts in Jabal Khanfar, a hill overlooking the Abyan town of Jaar, which is controlled by al-Qaeda militants, the official said.

A large amount of weapons seized by the militants in an attack against the army that left 185 soldiers earlier this month, were destroyed in the shelling, said the official who spoke to AFP by telephone from Jaar.

Six other militants were killed when the army bombed one of their hideouts in Makhzan, southeast of Jaar, the official said, asking not to be named.

Witnesses and officials said on Sunday that six U.S. drone missiles had targeted the suspected weapons hideouts in Jabal Khanfar.

Witnesses reported seeing columns of smoke billowing into the sky from the targeted locations and said that government buildings, now controlled by al-Qaeda fighters, had been damaged.

Al-Qaeda extremists took over Zinjibar, Abyan’s provincial capital, in May, and then overran several nearby towns across the south, including Jaar.

Air strikes by Yemeni and U.S. planes on Friday and Saturday killed at least 33 suspected al-Qaeda militants in Abyan and al-Bayda provinces, south of the capital, residents and local officials said.