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Drone attacks kill 34 in Yemen

The US has sharply escalated its drone war in Yemen, with military officials in the Arab country reporting 34 suspected al Qaida militants killed in less than two weeks.

That included three strikes yesterday in which a dozen died, as the action against al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemen branch is known, intensified.

It comes amid a global terror alert issued by Washington. One Middle East official says the upsurge is due to its leaders leaving themselves more vulnerable by moving from their normal hideouts toward areas where they could carry out attacks.

The US and Britain evacuated diplomatic staff from the capital of Sanaa this week after learning of a threatened attack that prompted Washington to close temporarily 19 diplomatic posts in the Middle East and Africa.

The first reported drone attack hit a car carrying suspected militants in the district of Wadi Ubaidah, about 109 miles east of Sanaa, and killed six, a security official said.

Badly burned bodies lay beside their vehicle, according to the official. Five of the dead were Yemenis, while the sixth was believed to be of another Arab nationality, he said.

The second drone attack killed three alleged militants in the al-Ayoon area of Hadramawt province in the south, the official said. The third, also in Hadramawt province, killed three more suspected militants in the al-Qutn area, he added.

All the airstrikes targeted cars, added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media. The drone strikes have become a near-daily routine since they began on July 27. So far, they have been concentrated in remote, mountainous areas where al Qaida's top five leaders are believed to have taken refuge.

But drones also have been seen and heard buzzing for hours over Sanaa, worrying residents who fear getting caught in the crossfire. Since July 27, drone attacks have killed 34 suspected militants, according to an Associated Press count based on information provided by Yemeni security officials.

Authorities in Yemen said they had discovered an al Qaida plot to target foreign embassies in Sanaa and international shipping in the Red Sea. And they said a group of al Qaida militants have entered Sanaa and other cities to carry attacks. It issued a list of 25 al Qaida wanted militants.

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