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Middle East

Suspected US drone strike kills two militants in Yemen

Government security officials in Yemen have claimed that a US drone strike killed two al Qaeda militants. If confirmed, it would be the third American drone strike to hit Yemen in less than a week.

The strike targeted a house in the eastern province of Marib on Sunday, destroying a weapons cache and killing two militants and wounding three others.

Witnesses said that the strike was carried out by an unmanned aircraft, while Yemen's Defense Ministry confirmed that the attack came from a drone, without saying who was responsible. Unnamed Yemeni army officials told the Associated Press that Washington was behind the drone strike.

According to the Yemeni Defense Ministry's new website, the strike destroyed "a store of weapons and various explosives that had been used to blow up government facilities and private and public institutions."

Checkpoint attacked

A few hours later, al Qaeda militants attacked a military checkpoint in the same area, killing two government soldiers. A third militant was supposedly killed in the clash.

The US has stepped up its drone campaign in Yemen, launching 53 strikes in 2012 compared to just 18 in 2011, according to the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank.

Yemen is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, considered by Washington to be the global terrorist network's most dangerous branch.

Al Qaeda-affiliated militants captured large swathes of southern Yemen in 2011, taking advantage of political instability caused by the ouster of former President and US ally Ali Abdullah Saleh. Government troops, with the backing of US drones, have managed to recapture much of that territory since then.

slk/tm (AP, AFP, dpa)