SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Clashes between Shiite protesters and security forces in Yemen's capital Sunday killed seven people and wounded more than 80, a Yemeni security official said.
In another part of the country, a military official said an airstrike, believed to be a U.S. drone attack, killed six suspected al-Qaida militants in the eastern province of al-Jawf, bordering Saudi Arabia.
The violent protest and al-Qaida's presence throughout parts of Yemen revealed how nearly a year and a half after a new government took office, the impoverished Arab country is still struggling for stability.
The Shiite protesters in the capital were demanding the release of political detainees.
A security official said seven Shiite Hawthis were killed after they fired at guards while trying to storm intelligence headquarters in Sanaa's historic old quarter. He said some of the detainees were arrested for smuggling weapons and drugs. He spoke on condition of anonymity according to regulations.
Hawthi leader Ali al-Bokhayti said only five from the group were killed. He blamed the security forces for the bloodshed, accusing them of using excessive force.
Also in the capital, hundreds of supporters of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh demonstrated against the release of 17 men who were detained in connection with a June 2011 explosion that injured Saleh in his palace mosque. Saleh stepped down last year after months of protests.
The prosecutor's office said the 17 were released for lack of evidence.
The United States has ramped up drone strikes against alleged al-Qaida targets since Saleh's successor took over.
A Saudi national and five Yemenis were killed in the latest attack on Sunday. Security officials named al-Qaida field leader Saleh Hassan Jredan among the dead.
A Yemeni security official said two missiles from the U.S. drone were fired at two cars carrying the militants in the al-Mahashma area in al-Jawf, a militant hotbed.
A U.S. airstrike in al-Jawf in 2011 killed two American-born al-Qaida activists — cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, who edited al-Qaida's Internet magazine.
In the southern province of Hadramawt, one soldier was killed and three others injured in an ambush by al-Qaida militants on Sunday, a military official said.
He said the army, backed by warplanes, pressed its operation against al-Qaida in Hadramawt, killing two militants, bringing to nine the number of fighters killed since the start of the offensive on Wednesday. He said 15 suspected militants were arrested while four soldiers, including an officer, were killed in the fighting.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity according to military rules.
The unusually large operation in Hadramawt followed efforts by Yemen's new government to force remaining al-Qaida militants out of strongholds captured during a year of political turmoil in Yemen that ended with the replacement of Salah early last year by his vice president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Washington considers the Yemen branch, also known as the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as one of the world's most dangerous terror groups.