A U.S. drone strike on suspected al-Qaida militants in Yemen killed at least three people, just days after the U.S.-backed government resigned in the face of an uprising by Shiite Houthi rebels, effectively leaving the country with no government.
The Associated Press reports that the strike, which occurred in the central province of Marib, targeted a vehicle carrying three men near the border with neighboring Shabwa province, an al-Qaida stronghold. The news agency also quoted an al-Qaida member as saying two of the slain fighters were Yemenis, one Saudi. Here’s more:
“He identified the Saudi man as Awaid al-Rashidi, who he said was in his 30s and had been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for seven years, apparently over terrorism charges. The two Yemeni Al Qaeda members killed in the strike were Abdel-Aziz al-Sanaani and Mohammed al-Jahmi from Marib’s tribe of Jahmi, the member said.”
The strikes come the same day the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa said it could not provide routine consular services “due to ongoing security concerns.”
That’s an apparent reference to the state of chaos in Yemen, a predominantly Sunni Muslim country, following the resignation last Friday of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, his prime minister and his Cabinet.
The political unrest, which has been simmering for months, came to a head last week when Shiite rebels took control of much of Sanaa and surrounded Hadi’s house.
The Houthis, as we have previously noted, follow a strain of Shiite Islam that is close to the dominant Sunni strand of Islam. They were created as a movement in 2004 and want greater autonomy for the north of Yemen.
The unrest raises questions about the future of Yemen, which is home to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, regarded as the most successful al-Qaida franchise. The Houthis are opposed to al-Qaida and are battling them across the country, but the group is also opposed to the U.S. and is said to be backed by Iran.