Three militants killed in possible U.S. drone strike in Yemen

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 16, 2012 5:23 PM
Three militants killed in possible U.S. drone strike in Yemen

ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - At least three al Qaeda-linked militants were killed in an air strike in Yemen on Monday as the government pressed ahead with an offensive against Islamist insurgents in the south of the country.

A local official in the southern Shabwa province said Yemeni warplanes had fired rockets on a vehicle, killing six militants from Ansar al-Sharia, a group affiliated with al Qaeda.

But the group itself said in a statement that only three of its militants had been killed in the attack which it said was carried out by a U.S. drone, not warplanes.

Washington has repeatedly used drones to target Yemeni militants in order to try to keep a lid on a threat it wants the government to take more seriously.

Government troops launched a fresh offensive against insurgents after they attacked a military camp outside the southern city of Lawdar last week. More than 200 people have been killed in fighting and airstrikes.

Reeling from a year of political upheaval that eventually unseated Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president, Yemen is struggling to defeat militants who have exploited weakened central government control to expand their influence.

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An Islamist insurgency, particularly in the south, is one of several challenges facing Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the new president. Hadi also faces challenges from Shi'ite Muslim rebels in the north and southern secessionists.

(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Andrew Osborn)