ADEN (Reuters) - At least three suspected al Qaeda militants were killed on Thursday in east Yemen by missiles fired from an unmanned aircraft, the third such strike in under a week, a government official said.

Drone strikes on suspected al Qaeda targets in Yemen are usually carried out by U.S. forces, although Washington does not comment publicly on the practice.

The U.S. government backs Yemen with funds and logistical support in its efforts to quash Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), considered one of the most aggressive branches of the global militant organization.

The drone attack happened ahead of a meeting on Thursday in Washington between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Yemeni counterpart Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The two are due to discuss their "counter-terrorism partnership", according to a White House statement.

The Yemeni government official said that two rockets were fired at a car in the eastern Hadramout province carrying the three suspected Islamist militants. He gave no further details.

Late on Saturday, at least four suspected AQAP members were killed in a drone strike in Abyan province. On Tuesday, three more militants, including a Saudi national, were killed.

Washington has said AQAP is the movement's most dangerous regional wing.

Islamists linked to al Qaeda seized control of some towns in southern Yemen in 2011 after Arab Spring protests weakened the government in Sanaa. However, the Yemeni army and tribal militias recaptured the towns last year with U.S. assistance.

Lawless, impoverished Yemen lies on international energy shipping routes and shares a long border with Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter.

(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing by Mahmoud Habboush; Editing by William Maclean and Raissa Kasolowsky)