An attack by a suspected US drone strike in Yemen's southeastern Shabwa province killed nine people, believed to be al-Qaeda fighters, according to a tribal source.

"A US drone struck a house where al-Qaeda militants were meeting, and a car nearby," in the town of Azzan in Shabwa province early in the morning, the tribal source told AFP news agency on condition of anonymity on Wednesday.

He said "nine people were killed in the explosions".

A local medic confirmed the toll.

 

Several hundred al-Qaeda fighters are believed to have fled to Azzan in the hours before two al-Qaeda strongholds in Yemen's southern Abyan province, Jaar and Zinjibar, were recaptured by the army on Tuesday.

The fighters are also believed to have fled to the town of Shuqra, east of the newly recaptured towns, where according to one local official, fierce clashes raged on Wednesday with the army.

"Al-Qaeda is still resisting and there are battles in and around the city," where many of al-Qaeda's leadership is known to be hiding, the official told AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

He said the army has "surrounded the town from three sides."

In Azzan, a resident said dozens of people "have fled" since the early morning drone strike.

"The explosions were very strong ... they shook the whole town," said the resident who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The capture of Zinjibar and Jaar marked the first major victories of a month-long army offensive to destroy Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the name given to the network's Yemen branch.

The fighters, taking advantage of a central government weakened by last year's Arab-Spring style uprisings, had overrun most of Abyan, taking full control of the capital, Zinjibar, as well as Jaar, Shuqra and several villages.

Source: Agencies