By Ahmed Al-Haj Associated Press
SANAA, Yemen — U.S. drones killed 10 al-Qaida militants — one believed to be a top bomb-maker — in separate strikes targeting moving vehicles in Yemen, officials and the country’s state-run agency said on Tuesday.
The first attack hit two vehicles carrying seven passengers in the southern town of Radda late Monday, killing them all. The official SABA news agency said one was Abdullah Awad al-Masri, also known as Abou Osama al-Maribi, whom it described him as one of the “most dangerous elements” of al-Qaida in the militant stronghold of Bayda province and the man in charge of a bomb-making lab.
SABA did not specify his nationality. The agency said the dead also included a Bahraini, a Saudi, two Egyptians, and one Tunisian, SABA reported. Officials said the strike was carried out by a drone.
Further east, another U.S. drone targeted a second vehicle on Tuesday carrying three al-Qaida militants in the Zoukaika region of Hadramawt, the officials said.
Officials in Yemen often credit the U.S. with carrying out drone airstrikes against the terror network’s local branch, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which it considers to be the world’s most dangerous. The U.S rarely comments on its role in Yemen.
Meanwhile, Yemeni troops killed two al-Qaida militants and arrested eight others, including non-Yemenis, after storming houses used as hideouts in the town of Jaar, officials said. The raid was part of a wider manhunt seeking al-Qaida fighters in towns that were formerly their strongholds.
Jaar and other towns in the south were seized by the militants last year during Yemen’s popular uprising. The army drove them out in a months-long offensive launched with the help of U.S. advisors in May. But militants fled to nearby mountains, and a lingering security vacuum appears to have encouraged some to attempt a comeback.
The government troops’ manhunt comes four days after a suspected al-Qaida suicide bomber struck a funeral attended by civilian militia fighters who aided the government’s push to recapture the town of Jaar, leaving 45 people dead and scores wounded.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press.
Yemen is the Arab world’s poorest country and has never had a strong central government. Lawlessness increased during last year’s mass uprising pushing for the ouster of longtime autocratic ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Saleh, who led a half-hearted campaign to uproot al-Qaida from Yemen, stepped down in February and his successor, President Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi has pledged to restructure the army and to combat the group more aggressively.