At least five people suspected of having links to al-Qaeda and three civilians have been killed by a US drone strike in central Yemen, officials and local tribal leaders say.
The strikes took place in the city of Radaa, in al-Bayda province, on Sunday, on two vehicles that were believed to be carrying armed fighters, they said.
“Five were killed and eight injured and we are still investigating who these men are and in what way they were linked to al Qaeda,” one official said.
Three women were also killed in the strike, a local tribal chief told the AFP news agency. He said that the strike had targeted Abdulraouf al-Dahab, a local al-Qaeda leader, but that it failed to kill him.
The attack took place at around 4:00pm local time (13:00 GMT) on the road between the village of Hama and Dahab’s village Manasseh, he said.
Other local and security sources confirmed that the attack had taken place.
Some tribesmen and military officials, however, said that no fighters had been killed in the air strike, and that 14 civilians, including three women and three children, had been killed.
The military officials said Sunday’s airstrikes were based on faulty intelligence that the passengers were al-Qaeda members. Missiles fired from the warplanes hit two vehicles carrying local residents returning to their villages.
The United States is the only country that has drones in the region and in recent months has been carrying out strikes on alleged al-Qaeda targets in the south and east of the country and in the Arabian peninsula.
Dahab is the brother of Tarek al-Dahab, who led al-Qaeda fighters in a January raid in which they overran Radaa, 130km southeast of the capital Sanaa.
The fighters abandoned the city later the same month, bowing to pressure from local tribes.
Tarek Dahab was reportedly killed in February.
In a separate incident on Sunday, several people were reportedly killed in clashes between pro-government tribesmen and alleged al-Qaeda-linked fighters in the south of Yemen, officials said.
The Yemeni army helped by local tribes launched a US-backed drive in May to drive Islamist militants from Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), an offshoot of al-Qaeda, out of several southern towns they had held for more than a year.
The two militants killed in Sunday’s violence in Abyan province were from Somalia and Pakistan, local tribesman said.