SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A U.S. drone airstrike killed two al-Qaida militants Monday in a southern town, Yemeni security officials said, the latest in a years long U.S. offensive against the branch the U.S. considers the violent extremists' most dangerous.
One of the dead was a midlevel al-Qaida Yemeni operative who escaped a U.S. drone attack 10 years ago, the officials said. The other was said to be a Jordanian.
They said the airstrike on Radda in Bayda province also critically injured three militants.
The Yemeni militant, Abdel-Raouf Naseeb, escaped death in the first recorded drone attack in Yemen, on Nov. 3, 2002. That strike killed Abu Ali al-Harithi, suspected of masterminding the October 2000 attack against the USS Cole warship in a Yemen port.
A member of the Naseeb family confirmed his death to The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity fearing government reprisal.
Al-Qaida in Yemen was behind several failed attacks in the U.S., including the 2009 "Christmas Day bombing" over Detroit, when a man on a passenger plane tried to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear.
Earlier this year, a band of al-Qaida militants captured Radda and raised the black al-Qaida flag over an ancient castle that overlooks the town. They also stormed the local jail and freed around 150 inmates, including an unspecified number loyal to al-Qaida, but tribal leaders eventually forced the militants out with the help of the army.
Also Monday, four tribesmen were killed in Yemeni artillery strikes on areas in the northeastern province of Marib, where armed tribesmen, who maintain cordial ties with al-Qaida, have been accused of attacks on oil pipelines and power generating stations, security officials said.
The security officials requested anonymity according to regulations.
Two months ago, tribesmen in Marib blew up main pylons and sabotaged an oil pipeline, protesting a death sentence against one of their members convicted of belonging to al-Qaida and killing security agents.
Some tribal chiefs are also suspected of being allied with former longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The attacks appeared to be aimed at undermining the new government.