US drone strikes have become more frequent in recent weeks, with at least six reported last month
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Sana’a: A US drone killed four suspected Al Qaida members in an overnight strike as they were travelling through the central desert province of Marib, local officials said on Wednesday.
One said that authorities had not been able to identify those killed because the bodies were so badly burnt.
Marib, now under the control of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognised government, is one of several regions where Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and its local affiliate, Ansar Al Sharia, operate and is east of the capital Sana’a — controlled by Iran-backed Al Houthis.
“A drone hit a car carrying four suspected Al Qaida members near the town of Al Hami. The vehicle was completely burnt and the persons inside were killed,” a second Marib official said.
The AQAP has exploited two years of civil war to recruit followers and cement its dominance in the central and southern parts of Yemen, where a Saudi-led Arab coalition, with logistical support from the US air force, has been fighting Al Houthis to try to restore Hadi to power.
Al Houthis seized much of northern Yemen including Sana’a in a series of lightning military operations that began in 2014, eventually forcing Hadi to flee. The United States has repeatedly attacked AQAP with aircraft and unmanned drones in what US officials say is a campaign to weaken the group’s ability to coordinate attacks abroad.
In late January, at least 30 people were killed in a US commando dawn raid in southern Yemen, including at least 10 women and children, in the first such military operation authorised by President Donald Trump.
The new US administration has not yet laid out a clear policy on drone strikes, but Trump has said he would support an escalation of the fight against Islamist militant groups.
US drone strikes have become more frequent in recent weeks, with at least six reported by Reuters last month.
The previous administration regularly used drones to attack Daesh, Al Qaida and other militant groups in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Human rights groups criticise the tactic because of civilian casualties.
The coalition accuses Iran of trying to use Al Houthis to expand its influence in Yemen, one of the poorest Arab countries.