SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A suspected U.S. drone strike killed two alleged al-Qaida militants in southern Yemen on Saturday, military officials said, making it the ninth such strike in just two weeks.
The strike in Lahj province wounded two other militants, one of them seriously, the officials said. The four had been traveling in a car in the area of el-Askariya. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said it was the first time a U.S. drone fired on this area of Lahj.
In total, there have been nine suspected U.S. drone strikes in Yemen since July 27. The drone attacks in that two-week period have killed a total of 38 suspected militants in Yemen, which is the Arab world’s most impoverished country.
While the U.S. acknowledges its drone program in Yemen, it does not usually talk about individual strikes. The program is run by the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA, with the military flying its drones out of Djibouti, and the CIA out of a base in Saudi Arabia.
An accelerated use of drone strikes in Yemen under President Barack Obama and a U.S.-backed offensive last year drove militants from territory they had seized a year earlier, during Yemen’s political turmoil amid the Arab Spring.
Washington recently flew diplomatic staff out of Yemen’s capital over fears of a terrorist attack. The U.S., which is set to reopen diplomatic posts that were temporarily closed this week throughout parts of Africa and the Middle East amid a major terror alert, will keep its embassy in Yemen closed.
Yemeni Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nasser Ahmed met on Saturday with Deputy U.S. Ambassador Karen Sasahara and two American security officials based in Yemen to discuss the security situation.
In a statement, the defense minister said he expressed appreciation during the meeting for U.S. logistical and technical support to the Yemeni armed forces in their fight against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Washington considers the group as the most dangerous al-Qaida branch to threaten U.S. interests.
Earlier this month, Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi met Obama in Washington. The two discussed the recent al-Qaida threats.