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U.S. drone strike kills 3 militants in Yemen

| Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, 6:50 p.m.

SANAA, Yemen — Three al-Qaida militants were killed in a U.S. drone strike in southern Yemen, Yemeni security officials said, the fourth such attack last week.

The officials said the three men were hit as they were riding in a Land Cruiser in el-Manaseh village on the outskirts of Radda in Bayda province. Dozens of local al-Qaida-linked fighters protested the drone strikes after traditional Islamic Friday prayers.

Four suspected drone strikes a week is uncommon in Yemen.

After the killing of Osama bin Laden, Yemen — home to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula — has come close to eclipsing Pakistan as a key focus of American counter-terrorism efforts.

In 2011, then-CIA Director David Petraeus characterized the group as the “most dangerous node in the global jihad” and the American government's action has appeared to echo the rhetoric. Notably, the number of American airstrikes in Yemen, largely carried out by unmanned drones, has surged over the past year, as much as tripling in frequency in comparison with 2011.

According to statistics, the United States is known to have carried out 41 airstrikes this year against AQAP as the al-Qaida group is known. That makes for an average of about three to four strikes per month.

Since December 2009, the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command are known to have conducted at least 54 air and missile strikes inside Yemen, excluding Saturday's suspected attack.

But AQAP and affiliated fighters have shown little sign of giving up the fight.

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