ADEN, June 1 (Reuters) - Two drone strikes killed seven suspected al Qaeda militants in southern Yemen on Saturday morning, a local official said, nine days after U.S. President Barack Obama said he would only use such strikes when a threat was “continuing and imminent”.
Washington views al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as the movement’s most dangerous wing after it attempted to launch bomb attacks on international airliners.
The official said the seven were in two cars driving in the al-Mahfad district of Abyan Governorate in southern Yemen where the Islamist militant group has a strong presence.
Islamists linked to al Qaeda seized control of some towns in southern Yemen in 2011 after Arab Spring protests weakened the government in Sanaa. However, the Yemeni army and local tribal militias recaptured the towns last year with U.S. assistance.
Lawless, impoverished Yemen lies on major international energy shipment routes and shares a long, porous border with Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter.
President Obama has come under criticism in the United States for his government’s use of drone strikes which have led to civilian casualties.
He said in a speech on May 23 that the Defense Department would now take the lead in launching lethal drone strikes from the Central Intelligence Agency, meaning there would be more Congressional oversight of the programme. (Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)