US drone strike kills 4 al-Qaida suspects in Yemen

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A U.S. drone strike killed at least four al-Qaida suspects in Yemen's restive northern province of Saada on Sunday, an official of the Interior Ministry said.

"At least four al-Qaida suspects, including two Saudi fugitives, were killed when the U.S. unmanned warplane hit two houses in Wadi Abu Jubarah in Saada province," the official told Xinhua by phone on condition of anonymity.

"Omar al-Tais, the local al-Qaida commander in Saada, was injured in the drone strike," the official said, citing a confirmation by Saada governor Faris Manna.

A woman and her son were among the injured, the official added.

It was the first drone strike in northern Yemen since the U.S.- Yemeni forces launched anti-al-Qaida operations earlier this year.

Saada, which borders the top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, is also the stronghold of Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who controls most parts of the province since they signed a ceasefire deal with the Yemeni government in August 2010 that ended an on-and-off war since 2004.

Houthis have agreed to join a United Nations-sponsored reconciliation national dialogue planned by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi next month.

Yemeni officials said the United States has escalated its drone strikes since Hadi took office in February, as part of the anti- terror cooperation to help crush the resurgent al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the impoverished Arab country.

On Oct. 21, a U.S. drone strike killed four al-Qaida members who were travelling in a desert valley in Yemeni eastern province of Marib.

Islamic militants had taken advantage of Yemen's political upheaval last year against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in which they captured several cities in remote lands before being driven out from their hideouts in a U.S.-backed offensive in June.

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