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Yemen drone strike kills four suspected al Qaeda militants: tribal leaders

Predator Drone firing a missile -USAF Image
Predator Drone firing a missile -USAF Image

SANAA (Reuters) - At least four suspected al Qaeda members were killed in a drone strike in central Yemen, local tribal leaders said on Tuesday, following a U.S. warning of a possible major militant attack in the region.

The warning issued by Washington on Friday has prompted the closure of several Western embassies in Yemen and several U.S. missions across the Middle East and Africa.

The New York Times reported on Monday that the closure of the U.S. embassies was prompted by intercepted communication between al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri and Nasser al-Wuhaishi, head of Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The Yemeni tribal leaders said five missiles struck a vehicle travelling in Maarib Province in Tuesday's strike, killing all of its occupants.

State news agency Saba also said initial reports indicated that four suspected al Qaeda militants were killed in the air strike in Maarib, but gave no further details.

Drone strikes on suspected al Qaeda targets in Yemen are usually carried out by U.S. forces, although Washington does not comment publicly on the practice.

Security in Yemen is a global concern as it is home to AQAP, considered one of the most aggressive branches of the global militant organization, and shares a long border with Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally and the world's top oil exporter.

The U.S. government backs Yemeni forces with funds and logistical support.

Yemeni authorities issued a statement early on Tuesday listing 25 "most wanted terrorists" it said were planning to carry out attacks in the country during the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday this week.

The statement offered a reward of five million Yemeni riyals ($23,000) for information leading to the capture of the al Qaeda suspects.

A September 11 attack last year killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans in Benghazi.

U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told CNN at the weekend that the recent actions taken to close the embassies showed President Barack Obama's administration had learned lessons from Benghazi.

(Refiles to clarify in headline that officials are tribal leaders)

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Pravin Char)

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