ADEN, Yemen, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- A U.S. drone killed five operatives of the Yemen-based al-Qaida offshoot in an overnight strike as they were traveling through a mountainous road in the southeastern province of Shabwa, a local official told Xinhua on Sunday.
The local Yemeni official based in Shabwa said that missiles fired by unmanned U.S. aircraft destroyed a vehicle and left five bodies badly burnt in the area late on Saturday.
A tribal chief confirmed the strike, saying "a drone kept hovering for hours and then struck a car carrying five al-Qaida operatives in Markhah area of Shabwa."
"The vehicle was completely destroyed and no one of the citizens approached from the scene to see for fear of new air bombings," the tribal source added.
An intelligence source said that "the attack aimed at killing a high-ranking member of the al-Qaida terrorist group. But investigators were unable to identify those killed because only charred remains of the terrorists' bodies left at the scene."
The southeastern province of Shabwa, now under the control of newly-recruited Yemeni troops backed by the United Arab Emirates, has recently witnessed a number of anti-terror offensives against hideouts of al-Qaida in the past weeks.
The U.S. military has carried out several airstrikes against the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) 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.