Sana’a - An airstrike killed five al-Qaeda militants in Yemen on Monday, state media said, as the army sent reinforcements to two regions in what appeared to be a widening offensive against the Islamist group.
The attack destroyed a car carrying the militants in the Wadi Abida district of the northern province of Maarib, a military source and a local official told Reuters. Both had earlier said it was carried out by a drone.
The strike appeared to be the latest move in a US-backed campaign to crush Islamist fighters, who have mounted dozens of attacks on government officials, security forces and foreigners in recent months.
Al-Qaeda and its allies have grown in strength in Yemen, taking advantage of the political turmoil following a mass uprising in 2011 that eventually overthrew the president.
The chaos has jeopardised a delicate transfer of power to an interim government, posed a threat to oil-producing neighbour Saudi Arabia and alarmed Western powers who fear al-Qaeda could launch international attacks from the impoverished country.
More special forces were on their way to Maarib, east of the capital Sana’a, and the central province of al-Bayda, military sources told Reuters.
Yemen's army says it has already killed dozens of militants since it stepped up its offensive against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) - regarded as one of the group's most lethal wings - two weeks ago.
The United States has acknowledged using drones in Yemen, though it does not comment on individual strikes.
A series of drone strikes in late April in al-Bayda and the southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa killed at least 65 militants, said officials.
Revenge attacks blamed on Islamist militants have increased in the aftermath of the army campaign.
A suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a military police complex in the southern coastal city of Mukallah on Sunday, killing at least 11 soldiers. - Reuters