Three US drone strikes killed eight people, including at least four suspected members of al Qaeda, in the Yemen province of Marib, a tribal chief and witnesses said today.
One raid late night yesterday targeted a vehicle transporting four suspected members of the jihadist network in Wadi Abida, east of the city of Marib, 170 kms east of Sanaa, the tribal source said "The bodies of the four dead were ched," he said, requesting anonymity, adding that only the body of Ismail bin Jamil, a local al Qaeda chief, was identified.
A witness said that car was engulfed in flames.
Another raid struck a vehicle in the same area killing four passengers from Al-Haytak clan, part of the Abida tribe, the source said without specifying their relation to al Qaeda.
A raid earlier in the evening targeted another vehicle transporting four people, but a rocket missed the car allowing the passengers enough time to flee, a witness said.
The raids bring to at least 22 the number of people killed in US drone strikes since attacks were intensified on December 24.
Washington has been stepping up its support for Yemen's battle against militants of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which it regards as the most active and deadliest franchise of the global network.
US drone strikes in Yemen nearly tripled in 2012 compared to 2011, with 53 recorded against 18, according to the Washington-based think tank New America Foundation.
AQAP took advantage of the weakness of Yemen's central government during an uprising in 2011 against now ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, seizing large swathes of territory across the south.
But after a month-long offensive launched in May last year by Yemeni troops, most militants fled to the more lawless desert regions of the east.