By Zhu Ningzhu – xinhuanet.com
ADEN, Yemen, April 19 (Xinhua) — A U.S. drone raid on early Saturday killed 16 al-Qaida militants and five civilians in Yemen’ s southeastern province of al-Bayda, a Yemeni army officer said.
The drone hit a pickup car which was carrying 16 suspected militants in Hazmiah area of al-Bayda, about 268 km southeast of the capital Sanaa, local sources said. Five civilians passing by in a nearby car were also killed.
Another six civilians travelling in another car on the highway of Hazmiah area were also wounded, witnesses said.
It’s the seventh of such drone strikes in the past two months.
Earlier April a drone strike killed three suspected al-Qaida militants in the southern province of Abyan. In March five separated drone strikes in al-Jawf, Marib and Shabwa killed at least six militants.
The United States has escalated its drone strikes against suspected al-Qaida targets in Yemen since February last year, when Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office after a UN- backed deal removed former President Ali Abdullah Saleh from power.
Last month the White House pledged to continue to support the anti-terrorism efforts of Hadi’s government that aims to uproot the al-Qaida group in Yemen.
But critics said the drone strikes often violate international law and cause heavy civilian casualties.
In December last year a U.S. drone strike mistakenly hit a wedding party in Yemen’s southeastern province of al-Bayda, killing 11 Yemeni civilians and wounding another 21.