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Drone strike kills 'seven Qaeda suspects' in Yemen

The US rarely acknowledges its years-long unmanned drone campaign in Yemen [AFP]

Date of publication: 5 September, 2016

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Suspected US drone strikes killed at least seven al-Qaeda militants in central Yemen late on Sunday, a security official said.

At least seven suspected al-Qaeda operatives in central Yemen were killed in a possible US drone strike late on Sunday, a security official said. 

According to the official, a missile fired by what was "probably an American drone" hit an apartment building in the al-Wadi area of Marib province, east of the capital Sanaa, killing seven people. 

The United States, which rarely acknowledges its years-long unmanned drone campaign in Yemen, is thought to have carried out dozens of strikes against what it says are members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Late last month, several drone strikes in provinces of southern and eastern Yemen killed at least seven AQAP militants.

In July, a much anticipated report revealing the number of those killed in the controversial US drone programme since 2009 was widely questioned, with rights groups doubting the 'low numbers'.

The White House revealed that up to 116 civilians were killed in President Barack Obama's controversial drone strikes initiative in countries including Yemen, Pakistan and Africa.

An estimated 473 strikes – conducted outside the US' principal war zones in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan – had killed 64 to 116 civilians between 2009 and 2015, a report from the Director of National Intelligence revealed for the first time in August.

Years of pressure from rights groups demanded a better accounting of military actions under Obama led to the release of information that has for years been kept classified among officials in Washington.

Critics have long alleged that the US drone strikes kill far more civilians than claimed, but the recent revelations caused further questions to be posed, with even the DNI acknowledging the possible weakness of its own numbers.

"Although the US government has access to a wide range of information, the figures released today should be considered in light of the inherent limitations on the ability to determine the precise number of combatant and non-combatant deaths given the non-permissive environments in which these strikes often occur," the DNI said in a statement at the time.

AQAP and the Islamic State group have exploited a power vacuum created by the conflict between the government and Iran-backed rebels to expand their presence in the Arabian Peninsula country.

The US has vowed to continue its campaign against AQAP, which it considers to be the al-Qaeda network's deadliest franchise.

A Saudi-led Arab military coalition that backs the Yemeni government has also turned its sights on AQAP, targeting it with airstrikes.

The coalition is supporting pro-government forces, which launched an offensive this year to retake several towns from AQAP.

More than 6,600 people have been killed in the Yemeni conflict since March 2015, the UN says.

Agencies contributed to this report

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