SANAA (Reuters) - Al Qaeda militants killed two Saudi men accused of spying for the United States in southeast Yemen on Wednesday, residents said, a day after the group announced its leader was killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike.
Images posted on social media by al Qaeda supporters showed armed militants on a beach carrying banners and surrounding two blindfolded men kneeling on the sand.
The Yemeni off-shoot of al Qaeda has operated openly in Mukalla, the capital of Yemen's southeastern province of Hadramout, since it seized control of the city some weeks ago, taking advantage of months of political chaos and violence.
"They executed two Saudis, named al-Mutairi and al-Khaledi. They put the two men on the corniche in the city of Mukalla ... they opened fire at them in front of a big group of residents," one resident, who was present on the beach, told Reuters by telephone. He asked to stay anonymous for his own safety.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) announced on Tuesday that its chief, Nasser al-Wuhayshi -- a former aide of Osama bin Laden and deputy leader of al Qaeda's global organisation -- was killed in a U.S. bombing along with two other militants.
Residents believe the suspected U.S. drone strike which killed the men occurred last Tuesday in the eastern city of Mukalla.
Analysts and Yemeni government officials say the strikes often rely on local informants.
Despite evacuating its embassy and intelligence officials from Yemen this year, the United States has killed five other senior figures in AQAP in 2015.
AQAP has plotted foiled bomb attacks against international airliners and claimed responsibility for the deadly shooting at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, calling it punishment for insulting the Prophet Mohammed.
It has also orchestrated attacks inside Yemen in recent years, targeting government ministries, military camps and soldiers, killed hundreds of people.
(Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)