A U.S. drone strike targeting al-Qaida members in central Yemen mistakenly killed at least 13 civilians on Sunday, a provincial police official said.
"The U.S. drone strike missed its suspected al-Qaida target and mistakenly hit two vehicles in the Yemeni city of Radda in al- Bayda province, killing up to 13 civilians, including two women," the official told Xinhua by phone.
"The targeted al-Qaida leader, Raouf al-Dhahab, survived the attack as his car was far from the scene," he said on condition of anonymity.
Raouf is a half brother to Qayid and Nabil al-Dhahab who command a local branch of al-Qaida group in Radda after the Yemeni intelligence services killed their predecessor and brother Sheikh Tariq al-Dhahab last February.
Radda city, some 170 km southeast of the capital Sanaa, was the scene of deadly battles before the troops recaptured the city earlier this year.
The United States has beefed up anti-terror cooperation with the Yemeni government since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office in February, after a year of political upheaval that allowed Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to capture several cities in southern Yemen.
It was the third flawed drone strikes in Yemen after two failed U.S. air raids last year, in which more than 40 civilians in Abyan, mostly children and women, were killed in northeastern province of Marib. The mistakes inflamed a popular outcry of anger against the Yemeni and U.S. governments.
The Sunday raid came two days after another U.S. drone strike killed eight suspected al-Qaida militants.
The Yemeni defense ministry said in a statement that "al-Qaida commander, Khaled Batees, was among the eight militants killed in the eastern province of Hadramout on Friday."
Batees was among the 60 al-Qaida militants that escaped from a Yemeni intelligence prison during the unrest last year.
The militants, known locally as Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), were recently either captured or wanted by the security authorities after a U.S.-backed offensive launched in the southern Abyan province three months ago, which routed the militants out of their strongholds that they had controlled for nearly a year.
Separately, at least two militants were killed in fresh clashes between al-Qaida militants and pro-government tribesmen in the restive province of Abyan on Sunday.
According to the defense ministry, the two militants were from Somalia and Pakistan.
The Yemen-based al-Qaida branch admitted in its media outlets that foreign people had fought alongside its ranks against the Yemeni troops during over the past months.
Combating al-Qaida network in the troubled impoverished Arab country remains one of the biggest challenges confronting Hadi, who has promised to reform the army, restore security and uproot the resurgent AQAP.