Air strikes in southern Yemen killed about 40 suspected al-Qaeda members over Saturday and Sunday, local tribal sources said, while the defense ministry said the strikes were based on information that "terrorist elements were planning to target vital civilian and military installations," according to its official website.
On Saturday an air strike killed 10 suspected al-Qaeda militants and three civilians in central Yemen, while another 40 were killed on Sunday in strikes targeted a remote mountainous region of the south, Al Arabiya reported.
Local and tribal sources later told Reuters that another strike hit a car carrying suspected al-Qaeda militants in the southern Shabwa province, killing five of them, late on Sunday.
Local tribal sources told Reuters that about 25 bodies had been transferred from the sites of Sunday's first attacks to nearby towns. They said at least three separate strikes had taken place after dawn prayers, all targeting al-Qaeda camps.
The official source said the militants targeted were among the "leading and dangerous" elements of al-Qaeda and were of different nationalities.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen, has been targeted by U.S. drone attacks in the past, leading to the death of several suspected AQAP figures, including, in 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born Islamist cleric accused of links to the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009 and U.S. cargo planes in 2010.
U.S. congressman Michael McCaul of Texas, the chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, said AQAP posed "probably the greatest external threat to the homeland itself.
"And so I think the fact the administration now is going aggressively against these terrorists ... is a very positive sign," said McCaul, appearing on the Sunday morning ABC News program "This Week."
Yemen has been unilaterally fighting AQAP but the group, which has attacked military targets, tourists and diplomats in the country, is proving difficult to defeat.