(Adds two officers killed in separate attacks)
ADEN, June 1 (Reuters) - Two drone strikes killed seven suspected al Qaeda militants in southern Yemen on Saturday, 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”.
In two separate attacks, militants believed to be linked to al Qaeda killed two senior police officers in the eastern part of the country, a local security official said.
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 travelling in two cars on Saturday morning in the al-Mahfad district of Abyan Governorate in southern Yemen where the Islamist militant group has a strong presence, when the drones struck.
In eastern Yemen, Colonel Abdel-Rahman Bashkeel, head of the criminal investigation department in the city of Seyoun in the Wadi Hadramout area, was killed on Saturday afternoon by a bomb placed in his car, a local security official said.
Militants on a motorbike also shot and killed Brigadier-General Yahya al-Omaisi, commander of the police force at the Seyoun airbase, the official said.
He said both attacks carried the hallmarks of al Qaeda, which is believed to be behind a spate of recent attacks on senior police, security and army officers, including at least three incidents last week.
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)