SANAA: Three US drone strikes killed nine suspected members of Al Qaeda in the Yemen province of Marib, a tribal chief and witnesses said on Sunday.
Yemeni officials will not comment on who exactly carries out such drone attacks or on whose orders, but President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi spoken openly in favour of the strikes during a trip to the United States in September.
However, discontent with the strikes among some Yemenis is growing.
Witnesses said armed tribesman, angry at what they said was a drone attack on an area inhabited by civilians, blocked the main road linking the capital of Maarib province with Sanaa.
One raid late on Saturday targeted a vehicle transporting four suspected members of the jihadist network in Wadi Abida, east of the city of Marib, 170 kilometres east of Sanaa, the tribal source said.
“The bodies of the four dead were charred,” he said, requesting anonymity, adding that only the body of Ismail Bin Jamil, a local Al Qaeda chief, was identified.
A witness said that car was engulfed in flames.
Another raid struck a vehicle in the same area killing five people including Hamad Hassan Ghreib, a member of Al Qaeda, the tribal source later said, adding that all five belonged to the extremist group.
Local sources said that two of the passengers were Qaeda operatives from Saudi Arabia.
One witness said a pilotless plane carried out two strikes against a car.
“One of the strikes missed the target and the other hit the car and left the bodies of the three people in it completely charred,” the witness told Reuters by telephone from the area.
He said unidentified people evacuated the bodies while the tribesmen blocked the road in protest.
The latest raids bring to at least 23 the number of people killed in US drone strikes since attacks were intensified on Dec. 24.
US drone strikes in Yemen nearly tripled in 2012 compared to 2011, with 53 recorded against 18, according to the Washington-based think tank New America Foundation.
AQAP took advantage of the weakness of Yemen’s central government during an uprising in 2011 against now ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, seizing large swathes of territory across the south.
But after a month-long offensive launched in May last year by Yemeni troops, most militants fled to the more lawless desert regions of the east.