A drone strike on Wednesday killed at least four suspected al Qaeda militants in southern Yemen, as unidentified warplanes shelled settlements held by the jihadist group further east, witnesses and local residents said.
The four suspected militants were killed when what was thought to be a U.S. drone fired on a checkpoint at the entrance of the city of Azan in southern Yemen.
It was not immediately possible to confirm the accounts by the residents, who said the militants had seized the city two months ago. The United States has acknowledged using drones but declines to comment on specific attacks.
The heightened air strikes came as forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi conducted a security operation against militants in al-Mansoura district of Aden, attempting to bring to an end a state of chaos that had wrapped up the southern port city where the Yemeni government is temporarily based.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS have taken advantage of the year-old Yemen war between Hadi supporters, who are supported by a Saudi-led alliance, and Iran-allied Houthis to seize parts of the country, including the Hadramout provincial capital in southeastern Yemen.
Residents said unidentified warplanes launched three strikes on a former Yemeni army camp east of Mukalla controlled by al Qaeda late on Wednesday night.
They said the air strikes ignited a fire at the old al-Rayyan air base that could be seen from several miles away. Residents said they believed the attacks have caused casualties, but provided no figures.
The militants captured Mukalla in April last year, a month after a Saudi-led alliance began military operations trying to restore Hadi to power and keep the Houthis from taking over the country.
Last week, U.S. warplanes targeted a training camp run by al Qaeda, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 30.
A local al Qaeda commander said in an audio recording posted on the Internet on Wednesday that the camp was being used to train tribal volunteers to fight the Houthis.
The authenticity of the recording by the commander, identified as Saad bin Atef al-Awlaki, could not immediately be verified.
In Aden, a security official said Yemeni troops loyal to Hadi, backed by local fighters, deployed in the al-Mansoura district which resulted in the capture of at least 21 suspected militants.
Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah, who is also the vice president, is based in Aden.