A suspected United States drone strike killed four leaders of al Qaeda's Yemen branch on Monday in a southeastern province of the country, the Associated Press (AP) reported, citing Islamic militant websites. The latest report follows a video statement released by the terrorist group last week, which said that a U.S. drone strike had killed a senior al Qaeda official in Yemen last month.
The four leading members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) branch died in the country’s southern port of Mukalla on the Arabian Sea. The suspected U.S. drones were believed to have fired rockets to hit the militants who were inside the city’s presidential residence, AP reported, citing security officials.
Amaq News Agency, a media outlet affiliated to the Islamic State group, said that the four slain al Qaeda leaders included Maamoun Hatem, who was believed to be an ISIS sympathizer. The three other leaders killed in the drone strike were identified as Abu Anwar al-Kutheiri, Mohammed Saleh al-Gharabi and Mabkhout Waqash al-Sayeri, AP reported.
Last week, a video statement released by AQAP said that group member Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, his son and several other fighters were killed after a drone hit their convoy in Yemen's Hadramawt governorate. Ansi, who was a prominent member of AQAP, had claimed responsibility on behalf of al Qaeda for the attack on French newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January in Paris. Ansi had also reportedly appeared in several al Qaeda videos.
Militants from Yemen’s al Qaeda branch had taken control of Mukalla in April from forces loyal to the country’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Two weeks later, al Qaeda militants also seized the Riyan airport in Mukalla from one of Yemen's infantry units.