Sanaa: Yemeni security forces have killed an al-Qaida kingpin in Shabwa province in intensive operations against the group believed behind the botched bombing of a US airliner, an official said on Wednesday.
"Abdullah Mehdar was killed last night by security forces which had besieged the house he hid in," provincial governor Ali Hassan al-Ahmadi told reporters.
Mehdar was the leader of an al-Qaida cell in al-Houta region, in the province of Shabwa, 600 kilometres east of Sanaa.
Security forces were hunting for the remaining members of the cell, Ahmadi said.
The al-Qaida branch in Yemen claimed responsibility for the failed Christmas Day attack on a US airliner, with the United States accusing the group of training the alleged perpetrator, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
Ahmadi had said on Tuesday that security forces arrested four al-Qaida suspects, two of them wounded in a firefight.
A tribal source said that 18 suspects in the same area managed to escape a police raid and fled to a neighbouring mountain.
The Yemeni government had sent military reinforcements over the past few weeks to some eastern provinces as it intensified its fight against al-Qaida militants.