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ADEN (Reuters) - Four suspected al Qaeda members were killed in a drone strike on a building in southern Yemen on Thursday, residents and local officials said.
The attack was in al-Saeed, an area of Shabwa province home to the al-Awaleq tribe, the extended clan of Anwar al-Awlaki, a militant cleric and U.S. citizen killed in 2011 by a U.S. drone strike.
Residents said they believed U.S. drones were used in Thursday's strike.
The United States launched dozens of drone strikes throughout Barack Obama's presidency to combat al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, regarded as one of the Islamist group's most dangerous branches.
In late January, three suspected al Qaeda members were killed in Yemen in what local officials said they believed were two separate U.S. drone strikes. [nL5N1FC0HW]
A week later, at least 30 people were killed in a U.S. commando dawn raid in southern Yemen, including at least 10 women and children, in the first such military operation authorised by President Donald Trump. [nL5N1FJ03Y]
The Obama administration regularly used drones to attack Islamic State, al Qaeda and other militant groups in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Human rights groups criticise the tactic because of civilian casualties.
The new U.S. administration has not yet laid out a clear policy on drone strikes, but Trump has said he would support an escalation of the fight against Islamist militant groups.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has exploited Yemen's civil war to carve out a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula's poorest country. Several of its leaders have been killed by drone strikes in recent years.
Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Andrew Roche