|Egyptian-born Ibrahim al-Banna was killed in Shabwa province by an air strike|
The media chief for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been killed along with eight other people in an air strike in southern Yemen, according to the Yemeni defence ministry.
The ministry said in a statement on Saturday that Egyptian-born Ibrahim al-Banna was killed on Friday night in Shabwa province.
Security officials said the air strike was among five that targeted al-Qaeda positions in Shabwa.
The statement added that al-Banna was wanted “internationally” for “planning attacks both inside and outside Yemen.
“He was one of the group’s most dangerous operatives,” it said.
The first strike late Friday targeted a house in the Azan district of Shabwa, but hit just after al-Qaeda fighters had a meeting in the building, security officials and tribal elders said.
They said a second strike then targeted two sport utility vehicles in which al-Banna was traveling along with several others, destroying the vehicles and leaving the men’s bodies charred.
It was not clear whether other participants in the meeting were targeted in separate strikes.
Separately, a gas pipeline serving fields in the Al-Hadhina district, just two kilometres from the Balhaf terminal on the Gulf of Aden was ablaze on Saturday after an overnight rocket-propelled grenade attack, a Shabwa provincial official told AFP.
“Following the attack, operations were halted in several parts of the terminal,” the official said without elaborating.
There was no immediate claim for the attack but the provincial official said he thought it was likely to have been an Al-Qaeda attack carried out in retaliation for the air strikes in Shabwa.
“I think it is a response to the air strikes,” the official said.
Al-Qaeda has suffered major blows in Yemen lately with the killing of Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, al-Qaeda’s most active operational affiliate by US armed drones.
The 40-year-old al-Awlaki was killed last month in Yemen’s al-Jawf province along with another US citizen, Samir Khan, the co-editor of al-Qaeda’s Inspire magazine and Ibrahim al-Asiri, the organisation’s top bomb-maker.
After three weeks of tracking the targets, armed drones and fighter jets shadowed al-Awlaki’s convoy, before drones launched the lethal strike, US officials said.
Amid the past eight months of political turmoil in Yemen, al-Qaeda and other armed groups have gained even more of a foothold, seizing control of at least three towns and cities in the south and battling with the army.