US troops clash with militants at al Qaida compound in Yemen
US helicopters have airlifted soldiers to a central Yemeni province where they targeted an al Qaida compound, clashing with suspected militants and killing at least seven, according to officials.
US Central Command said the troops killed the militants using "a combination of small arms fire and precision air strikes" to attack the compound.
The Defence Department said the operation was conducted with the support of Yemen's government.
According to Yemeni officials, the raid took place in the al-Sirim area in the province of Marib in the early hours. Tribal leaders said explosions were heard in al-Sirim, followed by helicopters and gunfire.
The helicopters landed in the outskirts of the town of Jouba, which is known as one of al Qaida's hideouts and has been targeted by a series of air strikes in the past month that reportedly killed six militants.
According to the officials, there was also bombing in nearby Bayda province.
The Marib raid is the second publicly known US ground deployment in Yemen this year against al Qaida militants.
The Pentagon has stepped up air strikes as part of a sustained assault on al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in areas of Yemen where it is most active, after a special operations raid resulted in the death of a Navy Seal in late January.
Washington considers AQAP as one of the most dangerous branches of the terror network.
The January raid also killed 25 civilians, including women and children, and sparked outrage in Yemen. The US military said 14 militants from al Qaida were killed in the assault and US service members captured "information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots".
More than 75 US air strikes carried out since the beginning of the year have reflected an almost double increase in the yearly totals since the drone programme against al Qaida in Yemen began in 2009, according to analysts.
But al Qaida has used the chaos of Yemen's civil war - following the 2015 launch of the Saudi-led campaign targeting the Shiite Houthi rebels who seized the capital, Sanaa, and other areas in the country - to expand its footprint and recruitment efforts.
The militant group has also effectively emerged as a de facto ally of the US-backed Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his backers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the battle against the Shiite rebels.