SANAA (Reuters) - Al Qaeda militants have beheaded three Yemeni men in the provincial city of Maarib after accusing them of spying on their operations, a tribal source close to Islamist militants said on Tuesday.
The headless bodies of three men who formerly cooperated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) were found at dawn dumped in the streets of the provincial capital east of Sanaa, the source said. He described the executions as a message to tribes not to work against al Qaeda.
The men had been accused of planting tracking devices and providing Yemeni and U.S. intelligence with information which led to the killing of several al Qaeda members.
Yemen is trying to restore law and order after an uprising ousted veteran president Ali Abdullah Saleh in February. The turmoil led to a split in the army, causing a security vacuum that helped AQAP extend its sway in various provinces.
Reinstating stability in Yemen has become an international priority due to fears that al Qaeda could become further entrenched in a country which flanks oil producer Saudi Arabia and lies along major international shipping lanes.
AQAP, based in Yemen and regarded as al Qaeda's strongest regional wing, has mounted operations in Saudi Arabia as well as trying to launch attacks against the United States.
In a crackdown backed by U.S. drone strikes, the Yemeni army this year drove AQAP out of several southern towns they had held for more than a year. But militants have struck back with assassinations and suicide attacks on security officials.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Mark Heinrich)