Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists (archive)
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists (archive)Reuters

A U.S. air strike has killed a regional Al-Qaeda leader and two associates in Yemen's Shabwa province, a jihadist stronghold in the south, the Pentagon said Thursday, according to AFP.

Abu Khattab al-Awlaqi was emir for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Shabwa, and was responsible for planning and conducting attacks against civilians, the U.S. military's Central Command said in a statement.

Washington considers Al-Qaeda's Yemen-based branch to be its most dangerous and has conducted a long-running drone war against its leaders.

The aim of the June 16 strike was to "disrupt terrorist compounds, and attack networks in Yemen," the statement read, according to AFP.

The day after the strike, a Yemeni security official said it was conducted by drone, and had hit a vehicle in Saeed district, killing the driver and both passengers.

Yemen has been locked in a devastating civil war between the Saudi-backed government and the Shiite Houthi rebels who control the capital.

Al-Qaeda has taken advantage of the conflict to expand its presence in several areas of southern and eastern Yemen under the nominal control of the government and its allies.

AQAP has carried out many terrorist attacks in Yemen in recent years and has also targeted the West, having in 2015 claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris and then calling for “lone wolf attacks” against Western targets.

The leader of AQAP, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, was killed in an American air strike in June of 2015.