ADEN, Yemen, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- Seven militants of the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch were killed when a U.S. drone strike targeted their vehicle in the southeastern province of Shabwa on Saturday, a government official told Xinhua.
"A four-wheel drive vehicle carrying seven al-Qaida operatives was bombed with two missiles fired from an unmanned U.S. aircraft in Shabwa," the local government official said on condition of anonymity.
He said that the airstrike, which destroyed the vehicle, killed the seven al-Qaida members inside onboard.
The pre-dawn airstrike took place in the former bastion of al-Qaida militants in Alsaeed area of Shabwa.
Witnesses confirmed to Xinhua that the "identities of the killed militants are unknown because they were badly burned with fire."
The newly-recruited southern troops backed by the United Arab Emirates recently drove scores of al-Qaida militants out of Shabwa's villages.
The U.S. military has carried out several airstrikes against the extremist fighters in different provinces of the war-torn Arab country since U.S. President Donald Trump approved expanded military operations against the group.
That included intensified overnight airstrikes and ground military raids against the al-Qaida hideouts in the mountainous areas of al-Bayda and southeastern province of Shabwa.
The Yemen-based al-Qaida branch, seen by the United States as the global terror network's most dangerous branch, has exploited years of deadly conflict between Yemen's government and Houthi rebels to expand its presence, especially in southeastern provinces.
Yemen's government, allied with a Saudi-led Arab military coalition, has for years been battling Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels for control of the impoverished country.
UN statistics showed that more than 8,000 people have been killed in Yemen's conflict, most of them civilians, since the Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict in 2015.
The impoverished Arab country is also suffering the world's largest cholera outbreak, where about 5,000 cases are reported every day.