Yemen has been waging a crackdown on al-Qaeda with US backing. Al-Qaeda has long used the Arab state's remote mountains and deserts as hideouts and training camps sites.

Exploiting instability

With unrest raging in Shia-dominated areas in northern Yemen, Western powers fear that al-Qaeda is exploiting instability in the country to launch further attacks inside and abroad. 

Yemen is considered vital to Western powers. It borders Saudi Arabia, the world's leading oil exporter, and sits next to a strategic shipping lane at the southern tip of the Red Sea.  

The group claimed a failed bomb attempt on a US-bound passenger jet in December.

Yemen, which is also struggling to cope with a rising secessionist movement in the south, has faced international pressure to resolve its domestic conflicts in order to focus on defeating al-Qaeda.

In a separate development, state media said on Saturday that Ali Hussein al-Tays, an al-Qaeda member and a former Guantanamo detainee, had surrendered to the authorities.