Drone attacks killed eight men suspected of belonging to al Qaeda in southern Yemen on Saturday night, local residents said, as a U.S. campaign against the militant group goes on amid a wider civil war in the country.

Two missiles hit the fighters who had gathered in courtyards in the villages of al-Hudhn and Naqeel al-Hayala, residents from the southern coastal province of Abyan told Reuters by phone.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has taken advantage of a war pitting the Iran-allied Houthis against forces loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to grab territory and operate more openly.

The group has carried out attacks against the Yemeni state for years, plotted to blow up U.S.-bound airliners and claimed responsibility for the January 2015 attack in Paris on a French magazine that killed 12 people.

The United States has kept up a drone campaign against the militants, although it evacuated the last of its military and intelligence personnel from Yemen in March last year. Its attacks have killed some of AQAP's top leaders, including its chief, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, who was struck by a drone in June.

The United States has acknowledged using drones but declines to comment on specific attacks.

At least 50 al Qaeda militants were killed in a U.S. air strike on an al Qaeda training camp in the mountains of southern Yemen, medics and a local official said on March 22.