Three al-Qaeda militants were killed during a suspected US drone strike in Yemen on Saturday, according to the country’s security officials.
The incident is the fourth in one week and is a sign that attacks from drones are on the upswing in the Middle Eastern nation.
The Yemeni officials stated that the men were hit by a suspected drone strike while they were traveling in el-Manaseh village in a Land Cruiser, according to Yahoo! News.
Several fighters linked to al-Qaeda protested in the area after their traditional Islamic Friday prayers. Another attack occurred earlier this week in Radda itself and killed two militants. Officials have said that seven others were killed in two suspected drone strikes in Hadramawt, a southern province.
Four drone strikes in just one week is uncommon in Yemen. Statistics gathered by the Long War Journal before Saturday’s incident show that the US “is known to have carried out 41 airstrikes” in 2012 against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Reuters notes that a tribesman who rushed to the scene of Saturday’s suspected drone strike recalled:
“Their bodies were charred and the car was completely obliterated. Their bodies were not recognizable, but the government says they’re from al Qaeda.”
Saba, Yemen’s state news agency, announced that the militants killed were “elements of al Qaeda, while a website for the country’s defense ministry stated that those slain included a senior al Qaeda operative named Saleh Mohammed al-Ameri.
There has been an increase in drone attacks on al Qaeda in southern provinces, where anti-government protests helped the group seize parts of the country before they were driven out in June by a military offensive.