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Suspected US airstrike kills 4 Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen

SANA, Yemen — Yemeni tribal leaders say a suspected US drone strike has killed four alleged Al Qaeda militants in the central province of Marib.

The tribal leaders said on Sunday that the alleged operatives’ bodies were later found after the unmanned aircraft targeted a house the operatives were occupying in the district of al-Rawda. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni affiliate is known, has long been considered the global network’s most dangerous branch and has attempted to carry out attacks on the US mainland.

Yemen was plunged into civil war more than three years ago. Al Qaeda and an Islamic State affiliate have exploited the chaos to expand their presence in the country.

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In a separate development, Yemeni officials said unidentified armed men killed a Muslim cleric in the southern city of Aden, the base of Yemen’s internationally recognized government that is backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

Officials said Sunday that the slain cleric, Mohammed Ragheb, was known to be close to the Islah party, a local affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood group that is allied with Yemen’s self-exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.

Muslim clerics and preachers have often been targeted, mostly in Aden, prompting some imams to quit, abandon their mosques, or flee the war-torn country.

The coalition has been backing Hadi’s government in a three-year war against the Iran-aligned Shi’ite rebels, known as Houthis, aiming to restore him to power.

Also Sunday, the Yemeni government said the Houthis should release all detainees and captives held in their prisons ahead of peace talks.

The official news agency SABA quoted officials as saying the Houthis should also hand over their arms and withdraw from all rebel-held areas including the capital, Sana, which they seized in September 2014.

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The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, plans to bring Yemen’s warring parties to the negotiating table.

Associated Press