A US drone killed five operatives of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda offshoot in an overnight strike as they were travelling on a mountainous road in the southeastern province of Shabwa, media reports said on Sunday.
A Yemeni official based in Shabwa told Xinhua that missiles fired by unmanned US aircraft destroyed a vehicle and left five bodies badly burnt in the area late on Saturday.
A tribal chief confirmed the strike, saying "a drone kept hovering for hours and then struck a car carrying five al-Qaeda operatives in Markhah area of Shabwa".
"The vehicle was completely destroyed" and no citizens approached the scene to see "for fear of new air bombings", the tribal source added.
An intelligence source said that "the attack aimed at killing a high-ranking member of the al-Qaeda terrorist group. But investigators were unable to identify those killed because only charred remains of the terrorists' bodies" were left at the scene.
The southeastern province of Shabwa, now under the control of newly-recruited Yemeni troops backed by the United Arab Emirates, has recently witnessed a number of anti-terror offensives against hideouts of al-Qaeda in the past weeks.
The US military has carried out several airstrikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in different provinces of the war-torn Arab country since US President Donald Trump approved expanded military operations against the group.
That included intensified overnight airstrikes and ground military raids against the al-Qaeda hideouts in the mountainous areas of al-Bayda and the southeastern province of Shabwa.
The Yemen-based al-Qaeda branch, seen by the US as the global terror network's most dangerous branch, has exploited years of deadly conflict between Yemen's government and Houthi rebels to expand its presence, especially in the southeastern provinces.
Yemen's government, allied with a Saudi-led Arab military coalition, has for years been battling Iran-backed Shia Houthi rebels for control of the impoverished country.
UN statistics showed that more than 8,000 people have been killed in Yemen's conflict, most of them civilians, since the Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict in 2015.
The impoverished country is also suffering the world's largest cholera outbreak, where about 5,000 cases are reported every day.
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