ADEN, Yemen, March 9 (Xinhua) -- A mid-level commander from the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch was killed on Thursday during a U.S. drone strike in the country's southern province of Abyan, a military official told Xinhua.
The unmanned U.S. aircraft bombed a four-wheel drive vehicle on a road by the Wadia district of southern Abyan province, killing the group's mid-level commander on the spot, the military source said on condition of anonymity.
The al-Qaida commander was identified as Qassim Khalil and according to the source he masterminded several terrorist attacks in the war-torn Arab country in the past few months.
The mountainous areas in Shabwa and Abyan provinces have been the scene of U.S. drone attacks and clashes between Yemeni security forces and militants from the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch since the terrorist group emerged in the country eight years ago.
The militant group has yet to comment or confirm the death of one of its local leaders the latest U.S. drone strike targeted.
The impoverished Arab country of Yemen has been gripped by one of the most active regional Al-Qaida insurgencies in the Middle East.
The Yemen-based Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), also known locally as "Ansar al-Sharia," emerged in Jan. 2009, claiming responsibility for a number of terrorist attacks against Yemen's army and governmental institutions.
The AQAP and the IS-linked terrorists took advantage of the security vacuum and ongoing civil war to further their influence and seize more territories in southern Yemen.
Security in Yemen has deteriorated since March 2015, when war broke out between the Shiite Houthi group, supported by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and government forces backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition.
Over 10,000 people have been killed in ground battles and airstrikes since then, many of them civilians.