Al Qaeda militants man a checkpoint at the entrance of the southern Yemeni city of Zinjibar
Al Qaeda militants operate a checkpoint at the entrance of the southern Yemeni city of Zinjibar. Monday's attacks came a day after Ansar al-Sharia reiterated calls for the Yemeni government to release 600 captured militants in exchange for 73 Yemeni soldiers held hostage by the group for over a month. REUTERS

The United States government is expanding its military drone strike program against al Qaeda in Yemen to deter an increased threat the terror network poses in that country.

The new, more aggressive, policy comes one year after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, former leader of al Qaeda, in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

U.S. officials said the new policy will allow counterterrorist forces to target people who are found to be plotting attacks on America or its overseas territories. The forces can now act even if U.S. intelligence is not able to identify the people by name, two senior officials who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press.

Previous practice required that the militants are identified by name before any strikes were carried out. These new strikes will be conducted once the Yemeni government approves, the officials said.

But Yemeni officials told the AP on Thursday that they haven't been briefed on the changes as of yet. Yemen officials did tell the news agency that the country's new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, requested increased U.S. counter-terrorist cooperation.

Twenty-three air-strikes have been carried out by the U.S. in Yemen since last May. Of that number, 12 occurred in 2012, according to The Long War Journal, a website that keeps tabs on U.S. counterterrorism and militant activity.

Additionally, the U.S. carried out at least six airstrikes in Yemen this month. The Journal said the last was on April 16 in Shabwa province. There were also at least six strikes against al Qaeda targets in Yemen in March, the site reported.

U.S. authorities on Thursday warned that the first anniversary of bin Laden's death could increase the terror threat to Americans worldwide. Federal authorities have urged local law enforcement to be alert, but have said there is no indication of a credible threat or plots against the U.S. linked to the May 2 date, according to CBS.