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US drones raid al-Qaida militants in Yemen

Updated: 2012-03-31 06:29
( Xinhua)

ADEN, Yemen - US drones raided al-Qaida fighters in Yemen's southeastern province of Shabwa on Friday, killing at least seven terrorists and injuring several others, a security official told Xinhua.

The air strike hit the al-Qaida hideouts near the town of Azzan in restive Shabwa province, the local security official said on condition of anonymity, adding that several insurgents could be killed during the air bombing.

The air raid also destroyed a vehicle carrying al-Qaida fighters on the main road of Azzan, the official said.

"The militants inside the destroyed vehicle were killed and all of them were local chiefs in the al-Qaida network," he said.

Medics told Xinhua anonymously that eight civilians were injured during the air strike and had been brought to treatment in a nearby hospital.

"Flames and smoke could be seen rising from the bombing area following the air raid," a local resident said.

"The warplane which is still hovering over the region targeted gatherings of al-Qaida elements and many militants where either killed or injured," the resident said.

The United States intensified air raids against the Yemeni- based al-Qaida branch in the past few months, killing and injuring scores of militants across the restive southern regions.

Last week, dozens of the al-Qaida militants armed with rocket- propelled grenades and automatic rifles swept into the coastal town of Radhoum, 30 km east of the al-Qaida-seized city of Azzan in Shabwa province, and took full control of the region after it tightened security around the entrances of the town, a local official told Xinhua.

Al-Qaida militants who took advantage of the conflicts in the country have seized several towns in Abyan and Shabwa provinces after severe fighting with government troops backed by US drones.

In January 2009, al-Qaida affiliates in Saudi Arabia and Yemen officially merged and formed Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The group, mainly entrenching itself in Yemen's southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, is on the terrorist list of the United States, which considers it as an increasing threat to its national security.

The AQAP underscores the challenges faced by Yemen's new President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who won support from major Yemeni political forces, the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Hadi is tasked with restoring security and stability to Yemen and putting an end to growing influence of al-Qaida that threatens the daily oil shipping routes in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.