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Drone strikes kills 3 Qaeda militants in Yemen

Drone strike kills suspected al-Qaeda militants as anti-Houthi protests continue in Yemen's capital Sanaa
Yemeni protesters during a demonstration on 23 February in Sanaa against the Shiite Houthi group (AFP)

A drone strike on Saturday killed three al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, a tribal source said, in a region where the United States is the only country operating the unmanned aircraft.

The raid "targeted a vehicle in which three members of al-Qaeda were riding in the village of Bijan, in Shabwa province," the source told Anadolu Agency.

All three were killed, and their bodies burnt.

Yemen has descended into chaos since the Shiite Houthi militia overran the capital in September.

The Houthi militant group effectively placed President Abd Rabbou Mansour Hadi under house arrest in January but last week he escaped to the southern city of Aden.

Despite the turmoil, President Barack Obama vowed on 25 January not to let up in the US campaign against militants in the strife-torn Arabian Peninsula country.

Within a week, a US drone strike killed Harith al-Nadhari, a senior al-Qaeda figure, and three other militants in Shabwa province, the militant network said on Twitter.

The Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, is seen by the United States as the group's deadliest branch.

As the drone campaign continues unabated, Yemenis remain deeply divided over how the country should be run, which is fuelling a growing civil conflict. 

In the capital Sanaa on Saturday hundreds of Yemenis staged a rally to protest what they describe as a Houthi "coup" in the country.

Protesters chanted slogans against the Houthis and in support of the legitimacy of President Hadi.

From Aden, Hadi has attempted to withdraw his recent resignation and declared he is still Yemen's "legitimate" leader.

Hadi has also said that all Houthi decrees issued since their takeover of Sanaa in September were "null" and "illegitimate". 

Since his arrival, Hadi has met with a number of senior officials from Yemen's southern region in the hope of reclaiming power.

South Yemen attacks

On Saturday nine army soldiers were injured in an attack by suspected separatists in Yemen's southern Lahij province, a local official has said.

"Suspected separatists attacked an army patrol in the province's Radfan district, leaving nine soldiers injured," the official, requesting anonymity, told the Anadolu Agency.

According to the official, clashes broke out between Yemeni soldiers and militants following the attack.

Lahij has been the scene of deteriorating security since the 2011 uprising that led to the resignation of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Many of Yemen's southerners demand secession from the northern part of the country.

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