ADEN: Drone strikes killed two suspected Al-Qaeda militants in southern Yemen including the nephew of a top commander, security officials said yesterday, as the US steps up its strikes against jihadists. Khattab Al-Wuhayshi, nephew of slain Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi, was killed in an overnight strike on the town of Sawmaa in Baida province, a security official said on condition of anonymity.

Khattab al-Wuhayshi had been riding a motorbike through Baida, site of the first raid ordered by US President Donald Trump after he took office in January. AQAP chief Nasir Al-Wuhayshi, known as Abu Baseer, was killed in a US drone strike on Yemen in June 2015. A second overnight strike hit provincial AQAP official Ahmed Ali Saana, also on a motorbike, in Khabar Al-Muraqasha, a town in Abyan province, a local security official said. The Pentagon has confirmed more than 70 air strikes on Al-Qaeda targets in Yemen since February 28. Yemeni security officials have reported dozens of suspected jihadist fighters killed in the strikes on Abyan, Baida and the neighbouring province of Shabwa.

More than two years of civil war in Yemen between government forces and Shiite rebels who control the capital have created a power vacuum which Al-Qaeda has exploited to consolidate its presence. A January 29 commando raid against AQAP in Baida, the first operation ordered by Trump, resulted in the deaths of a US Navy SEAL and many civilians. The Pentagon has acknowledged civilians, including women and children, were killed in the botched Baida raid. Last month, Trump reportedly gave the Central Intelligence Agency new powers to authorize drone strikes against extremist targets in the Middle East independently of the Pentagon. - AFP