Drone Strike Kills 3 Suspected Al-Qaeda Militants in Yemen

Yemenis gather around a burnt car in a desert area east of Sanaa after it was targeted in a drone strike. (PHOTO CREDIT: AFP Photo / STR)

A drone strike killed three suspected Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen Monday after Washington vowed to carry on its campaign against the jihadi group despite the country’s ongoing political crisis.

The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, meanwhile, announced on its website that it was closed to the public until further notice due to security concerns.

U.S. President Barack Obama Sunday insisted Washington would pursue its efforts against Al-Qaeda in Yemen regardless of upheaval that has seen Western-backed President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi tender his resignation.

In the latest unrest Monday, the Shiite militiamen, known as Houthis, attacked protesters gathered at Sanaa University to demonstrate against their occupation of the capital.

Monday’s drone strike saw an unmanned aircraft, which only the United States operates in the region, fire four missiles at a vehicle in a desert area east of Sanaa, killing three suspected Al-Qaeda militants, a tribal source told AFP.

Yemeni authorities have for years allowed Washington to carry out strikes against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the local branch of the jihadi network which claimed responsibility for this month’s deadly attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

In India Sunday, Obama had vowed the United States would “continue to go after high-value targets inside of Yemen.”

“Washington will continue its campaign, regardless of who will be sitting on Yemen’s presidential chair, and regardless of whether the chair is empty or filled,” said Khaled Fattah, a Yemen expert at the Carnegie Middle East Center.

Hadi resigned last week after the Houthis abducted his chief of staff and seized key buildings in Sanaa, including the presidential palace.

The unrest has raised fears of strategically important Yemen, which lies next to oil-rich Saudi Arabia and along key shipping routes, collapsing into a failed state.

The longer a power vacuum persists “the more dangerous the political limbo in Sanaa gets,” Fattah said.

In a message on its website, Washington’s mission in Sanaa said: “The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest.”

It urged U.S. nationals “not to travel to Yemen” and those already in the country to “make plans to depart immediately.”

Houthis armed with daggers attacked protesters gathered inside the campus of Sanaa University Monday to demonstrate against them, leaving 10 people wounded, activists said.

The Houthis had earlier blocked access to the university and the nearby Change Square with roadblocks in a bid to prevent demonstrations.

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SOURCE: The Daily Star | AFP