Suspected US drone strikes killed at least nine, including Al Qaeda-linked militants, in Yemen on Thursday, according to Yemeni security officials and residents, The New York Times and Reuters reported. Other media outlets reported that the strikes had killed at least seven.
The Associated Press reported that at least three strikes targeted a farm outside the town of Jaar, a former Al Qaeda stronghold. Officials said the drone strike came after tips of a planned attack on the town by Al Qaeda.
Reuters and the Times reported that among those killed was Nader al-Shaddadi, a senior Al Qaeda militant in Abyan province.
The Times called al-Shaddadi one of the top leaders of Al Qaeda in the region. "An explosive belt wrapped around his waist was defused by members of the brigade," reported The Times, citing Yemeni security officials.
The AP noted the strikes came a day after Yemen's Defense Minister Gen. Mohammed Nasser Ahmed visited Jaar and voted to hunt down Al Qaeda militants.
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Al Qaeda's Yemen branch, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is considered by Washington to be the most dangerous offshoot of the terror network, the AP said. A US-Yemen military offensive in June pushed the militants out of the southern areas they occupied, and they have since taken refuge in mountain areas, launching assassinations and suicide bombings from there.
The drone strikes in Yemen have been a controversial issue, with critics and some American officials saying they cause civilian deaths and fuel anti-American sentiment. The UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks American operations, says as many as 56 civilians have been killed by drone strikes this year.
However, Interim president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, while on a trip to the US, was quoted last month as saying that he personally approved every attack against Al Qaeda, according to Reuters.
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