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Top al-Qaida leader killed in U.S. drone strike in Yemen

A top leader of the Yemen-based al-Qaida branch was killed along with two of his guards during a U.S. drone strike in Yemen's southern province of Abyan on Thursday, a government official told Xinhua.

"Leading al-Qaida member, Jalal Baleidi, was killed with two of his guards in a U.S. drone strike that destroyed his car in a desert area of Abyan province this morning," the local government official said on condition of anonymity.

Baleidi, who defected from al-Qaida, was recently appointed leader of the Yemen-based affiliate of the Islamic State group.

His killing came just hours after a similar strike in southeastern Shabwa province, the official said.

Baleidi masterminded several attacks on bases of Yemeni armed forces and led operations that resulted in the seizure of a number of towns in the country's troubled south.

The al-Qaida militant group has not commented on the reported death of Baleidi.

The Yemen-based affiliates of the al-Qaida and Islamic State terrorist groups and other armed groups are known to operate throughout the tribal areas of Shabwa, Abyan and al-Baydha provinces.

Yemen, an impoverished Arab country, has been gripped by one of the most active regional al-Qaida insurgencies in the Middle East.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which emerged in January 2009 and also known locally as Ansar al-Sharia, had claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on Yemen's army and government institutions.

[Source: Xinhua, Aden, 04Feb16]

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