A man protests against US drone attacks in Yemen near thee home of Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, in the capital Sanaa, on Jan. 28, 2013.
Credit: STR

Two drone strikes in southern Yemen killed at least seven suspected al Qaeda militants linked to the murder of two high-ranking police officers on Saturday.

The attack comes just nine days after President Barack Obama said the US would only order drone strikes if a threat was "continuing and imminent."

Washington and other governments consider Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as the radical Islamist movement's most severe offshoot, especially after its failed attack on international airliners.

An official told Reuters the suspected militants were killed while driving in two cars in the al-Mahfad district of the Abyan Governorate in southern Yemen, where its reported al Qaeda maintains a significant presence.

Also Saturday, Colonel Abdel-Rahman Bashkeel, head of the criminal investigation department in the city of Seyoun, died in a car bombing, and militants shot and killed Brigadier-General Yahya al-Omaisi.

In 2011, during the Arab Spring, radical militants linked to al Qaeda took control of parts of southern Yemen. With US assistance, Yemen regained some of its territory, but the secretive US drone program has been criticized by human rights workers who say the program does more harm than good. 

In April, during a Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, Yemeni activist Al-Muslimi gave a moving testimony on the program.  

"For me personally, it is deeply troubling, astonishing, and challenging to reconcile that the very same hand that taught me English, awarded me scholarships, and dramatically improved my life is the hand that droned my village, terrified my people, and now makes it harder for them to believe the good things that I tell them about America and my American friends," he said

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