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US ambassador praises Yemen's fight against Al Qaeda

The US ambassador to Yemen has praised the government's renewed offensive against Al Qaeda, coming after months in which the terror group had taken advantage of internal turmoil to overrun parts of the south.

yemen al qaeda 2012 4 21Enlarge
An image taken with a mobile phone shows a Yemeni army vehicle firing a rocket during fighting between army forces and militant supporters of the al-Qaeda in the south Yemen town of Loder, on April 14, 2012. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

The US ambassador to Yemen has praised the government's renewed offensive against Al Qaeda, coming after months in which the terror group had taken advantage of internal turmoil to overrun parts of the south.

At least 17 suspected Qaeda militants were killed in an air raid that struck one of their hideouts in the lawless south, Agence France-Presse cited the defense ministry as saying Sunday.

Militants had been wanting to capture the city of Loder, in Abiyan province, and the strategic road it controls, 150 miles southeast of the capital, the Associated Press wrote.

The attack brought to 57 the number of Islamist insurgents reportedly killed in south Yemen over the past three days, according to the defense ministry.

The AP cited US Ambassador Gerald Feierstein as telling reporters in the capital, Sanaa, on Sunday that: "We have begun to see in the past few days ... a strategy to challenge Al Qaeda in ways they have not done in the past months."

It was unclear if the Loder strike was carried out by the Yemeni air force or by US drones. 

On Wednesday the Washington Post reported that US drones had carried out eight airs strikes in Yemen in the past four months.

According to the Post the CIA is seeking permission to launch more airborne drone strikes in Yemen, even when there is a risk the victims might not always be terrorists.

If President Barack Obama's administration gives the CIA permission for the strikes, it could represent a politically dangerous escalation of US military activity in Yemen, the Post wrote.

The US has never formally acknowledged the use of drones against Al Qaeda in Yemen, considered by Washington to be the most active and deadly branch of the global terror network.

More from GlobalPost: French Red Cross worker kidnapped in Yemen

Exploiting weakened central government control, Islamist insurgents have taken control of a number of cities in the territory, close to key Red Sea shipping lanes.

More than 200 people have reportedly been killed since Government forces stepped up attacks on militants, according to a report in the Scotland Herald.

Islamist insurgents have taken control of a number of cities in the south, close to key Red Sea shipping lanes, plotting suicide attacks on oil facilities and repeatedly sabotaging Yemen's oil and gas pipelines.

France's Total gas pipeline to Balhaf was last blown up in March, hours after a US drone attack killed at least five militants, the Herald reported.

New President, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who took office vowing to fight al Qaeda, is also facing challenges from Shi'ite Muslim rebels in the north and secessionists in the south.

More from GlobalPost: Yemen's president Saleh is out. But real change remains elusive

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120422/yemen-al-qaeda-middle-east-oil-us-drones-cia