Three alleged al-Qaida operatives were killed on Sunday in Yemen’s southwestern Bayda province by a drone strike likely carried out by U.S. forces, security and tribal officials said.
The men were killed when a missile hit the vehicle in which they were travelling in southern Bayda province. Officials speaking on condition of anonymity identified one of the killed as Abu Anis al-Abi, an area field commander for al-Qaeda.
If confirmed, it would be the first such attack since U.S. President Donald Trump assumed office on Friday.
U.S. drone strikes against suspected al-Qaida targets have been commonplace in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, as a retaliatory measure against the group.
The United States conducted dozens of drone strikes throughout Barack Obama’s presidency to combat al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, regarded as one of the global militant group’s most dangerous branches.
The Trump administration has not yet laid out a clear policy on drone strikes, but Trump has said that he would support an escalation of the fight against Islamist militant groups.
During the Obama administration, the U.S. has regularly used drones to attack ISIS, al Qaeda and other militant groups in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries.
The controversial program has repeatedly killed civilians and has been criticized by human rights groups.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has exploited Yemen’s civil war to carve out a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country.
Several leaders of the group have been killed by drone strikes in recent years, most recently in December.