Al-Qa'ida's second-in-command in Yemen has been killed after the car he was travelling in was hit by a missile fired from a US drone, according to officials in Saana.
Saeed al-Shihri, a Saudi national, died along with five others as he drove away from a house in the southern Hadramawt province yesterday, officials in Yemen's defence ministry said.
A senior official at the Yemeni President's office confirmed the attack, but said DNA tests have yet to establish the dead man's identity.
If confirmed, the death of Shihri would be a major blow to the group as it faces a major offensive in the south. The Yemeni military has retaken several towns that had been captured by the terror network during political unrest inspired by the Arab Spring last year.
Al-Qa'ida's Yemeni branch – known as al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula – is seen as the world's most active division of the militant group, planning and carrying out attacks against targets in and outside US territory.
Meanwhile President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said yesterday that "there are tribal chiefs and senior officials who are covering up for al-Qa'ida figures" in Abyan and Shabwa provinces and that there were "impeding security measures to arrest them".