SANAA - US drone strikes killed a least 10 suspected al-Qaida militants on Tuesday in central Yemen, where fighting between members of Ansar al-Sharia and Shi'ite Muslim rebels also killed 10 people, local tribesmen said.
Fighting has been taking place in central and western Yemen since the Houthis, officially known as Ansarullah, captured the capital Sanaa on September 21, propelling the group into power brokers in the US-allied country next door to Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter.
Tribesmen said the drones targeted positions held by Ansar al-Sharia in the town of Radda in al-Bayda province and a vehicle used by the group.
They said at least 10 suspected Ansar al-Sharia fighters died in the strikes, the largest number of casualties in such attacks since the Houthis advanced in the area in mid-October.
The militants, along with local Sunni Muslim tribesmen, have been fighting against the advance of Houthi fighters. Scores of people have been killed since September 21.
The United States acknowledges using drones in Yemen but does not comment publicly on the practice. Al-Qaida and its affiliates in Yemen are among the most active wings of the network founded by Osama bin Laden.
In the latest clashes in Radda, tribal and medical sources said 10 Houthi fighters died in attacks on their checkpoints at the entrance to and in the centre of Radda, followed by clashes that went on for much of the night.
They said medical teams had yet to retrieve all the victims from the scene of the fighting in the city, where about 60,000 people live.
Houthi forces took over Sanaa in September and fanned out into central and western Yemen. The Sunni tribesmen and al-Qaida militants regard the Houthis as heretics.
Last Saturday, at least 20 Yemeni soldiers and three suspected al-Qaida militants died in clashes in the town of Jabal Ras in the western province of Hodeidah.
An al-Qaida suicide bombing killed 33 people in the central province of al-Bayda last week. Days later, 30 Shi'ite rebels and 18 Sunni fighters and their tribal allies died in clashes, also in al Bayda.