US drone strikes killed eight al-Qaeda militants at a gathering of the jihadists in their southern Yemeni stronghold of Jaar, a local source said yesterday.
“We heard three explosions rock the town at midnight,” the source said, adding that a “US drone” carried out the strikes on a residence where they had been meeting.
“Eight militants were killed and their bodies were left in pieces,” he said.
The raid came after an air strike in eastern Yemen on Sunday killed Fahd al-Quso, an al-Qaeda leader wanted in connection with the deadly 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.
US media reported on Tuesday that al-Quso’s killing came after information provided by a man who had infiltrated the militant group and was ordered by al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen to blow up a US-bound airliner.
US officials leaked out details of the extraordinary intelligence coup two days after the White House announced a plot by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, had been successfully thwarted.
Al-Quso’s name figured on an FBI list of most wanted terrorists, along with a reward of up to US$5 million for information leading to his arrest.
Several military officials in Sana’a said that air strikes like the one that targeted al-Quso are launched by US aircraft and coordinated by Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi and military and intelligence leaders.
Hadi, who succeeded veteran former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh after he stepped down following a year of protests, has vowed since his election in February to intensify the war against al-Qaeda.
“The war against terrorists has not started yet, and will not be over before we purge every province and village so that the displaced can return home peacefully,” Hadi warned last week.
The jihadists, who have renamed themselves the Partisans of Shariah (Islamic law), control parts of southern and eastern Yemen where Sana’a’s authority is weak.