A US drone strike in northern Yemen on Wednesday killed four suspected Al-Qaeda members, including an Iraq veteran, a military official said.
The unmanned aircraft fired two rockets at a vehicle in the Khalka area of Jawf province, the official said, adding that among those killed was Ali Juraym, a local militant chief who had fought in Iraq.
The American military operates all drones flying over Yemen in support of Sanaa’s campaign against Al-Qaeda and has killed dozens of militants in a sharply intensified campaign in the past year.
Drone strikes have triggered criticism from rights activists, who say they have claimed the lives of many innocent civilians.
The United Nations said 16 civilians were killed and at least 10 wounded when two separate wedding processions were targeted by drones in early December.
The victims had been mistakenly identified as members of Al-Qaeda, the UN quoted local security officials as saying at the time.
Following the deaths, Yemen’s parliament voted for a ban on drone strikes, but analysts say lawmakers have limited powers and are unlikely to have an impact on Washington’s campaign.
The United States says that drones are an essential part of its “war on terror”.
Yemen is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden and the home base of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which Washington views as the jihadist network’s most dangerous franchise.