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Middle East

US drone strike in Yemen kills suspected militants and civilians

A US drone strike has hit suspected militants travelling in a vehicle in Yemen. Civilians in a nearby car were also reported killed.

Military officials in Yemen reported an American drone strike in the al-Bayda province of central Yemen early on Saturday.

Witnesses said the suspected militants were in a vehicle travelling south and a car carrying civilians was passing in the opposite direction as the drone strike hit.

At least nine suspected al-Qaeda militants and three civilians are reported to have been killed in the strike. Yemen's Defense Ministry website quoted a security source as saying a number of "terrorists" had been killed.

The drone strike comes just days after the deputy governor of al-Bayda was assassinated by suspected al-Qaeda militants as he was leaving his home.

Yemen is among a handful of countries where the United States acknowledges using drones, although it does not comment on the practice (the photo above shows a US MQ-9 Reaper). The drone program has been criticized by human rights groups concerned about the risk of civilian casualties.

Last month, Yemen's president, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, defended the use of drones, telling the pan-Arab Al-Hayat daily that they "have greatly helped in limiting al-Qaeda activities, despite some mistakes which we are sorry about."

Yemen was the ancestral home of the late leading al-Qaeda figure Osama bin Laden and the home base of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has been linked to a number of planned attacks in the US.

jm/pfd (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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