Drone kills two Qaeda suspects as Yemen troops launch assault

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Drone kills two Qaeda suspects as Yemen troops launch assault

Drone kills two Qaeda suspects as Yemen troops launch assault

Aden (AFP) - A US drone strike in central Yemen killed two suspected Al-Qaeda members on a motorbike including a local commander, a security official said Saturday.

The strike came as UAE-backed Yemeni special forces launched a new offensive against Al-Qaeda in southeast Yemen, losing two soldiers.

The unmanned aircraft struck the motorcycle carrying the men in Bayda province at around midnight Friday, the official told AFP.

"The strike targeted two Al-Qaeda militants, local commander Abu Hussein al-Theriya and another, Dawoud al-Sanaani, as they rode through the province," he said.

Although the US only sporadically reports on its long-running bombing campaign against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), it is the only force known to operate armed drones over Yemen.

The drone war has intensified since President Donald Trump took office.

Washington also backs a Saudi-led coalition in its military intervention in Yemen, launched in 2015 with the aim of forcing Iran-backed Shiite rebels from the capital and restoring the government to power.

The Saudi-led intervention, in which the United Arab Emirates plays a key role, has expanded to include the fight against Al-Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups that have flourished in the chaos of the war.

On Saturday, two elite UAE-trained Yemeni troops were killed and others wounded in clashes with Al-Qaeda in the Mesini Valley of Hadramawt province, a military official said.

They were taking part in a new offensive, announced Saturday by Emirati state media, aimed at clearing Al-Qaeda from the southeastern province.

"Special forces have launched operations to clear the Mesini Valley west of Mukalla and Amed Valley in the Hadramawt desert of Al-Qaeda and to cut off its supplies and movements," the official said.

He said an unspecified number of Al-Qaeda members had also been killed.

The UN has labelled Yemen the world's worst humanitarian diaster, tallying more than 9,200 fatalities since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015.