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'Fighters killed' in Yemen air raids

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Yemeni security forces are reported to have carried out air strikes in which 30 suspected al-Qaeda fighters were reported killed in the south of the country.

A Yemeni Red Cross worker was also killed in the air raids as he travelled in the south on a mission to help negotiate the release of a kidnapped French colleague, a relative told AFP news agency.

Yemeni aircraft carried out several strikes on Wednesday, the mayor of Mahfed town on the outskirts of Abyan and Shabwa provinces, Yaslam al-Anburi, told AFP.

"There were 30 deaths in al-Qaeda ranks for sure," al-Anburi said. "Yemeni aircraft carried out a series of raids against concentrations of al-Qaeda fighters, mainly in the Wadi Dhiman and Dayda valleys, killing 30 and wounding many others."

Earlier, a tribal chief said three suspected fighters were killed and four wounded in an air raid targeting a group of al-Qaeda fighters in a desert region between Abyan and Shabwa provinces.

Yemen's military launched a campaign in May against al-Qaeda in the south which ended more than a year of there control over a string of towns and villages in Abyan and Shabwa.

The group's fighters are believed to have retreated to safe havens in the mountainous regions of Shabwa, Marib and Hadramawt provinces where they enjoy tribal protection.

Red Cross mission

Red Cross worker Hussein Saleh, killed in the air strikes on Wednesday, was in the region along with the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross for the southern port city of Aden, Saleh's relative said.

Saleh, who was 35-years-old, and three other staff members had been assessing the humanitarian situation in Abyan, which has been severely affected by the recent fighting, Reuters news agency reports.

"The International Committee of the Red Cross is deeply shocked and dismayed by the death of one of its staff members, Hussein Saleh, who was killed this morning while on duty in the north of Abyan governorate," the ICRC said in a statement.

"It was an air strike. We have no additional details whatsoever," ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said in Geneva.

A local official told Reuters that the Yemeni air force had conducted the strike that killed the ICRC worker.

He said, said Saleh, who leaves behind a pregnant wife and four children, had been trying to contact al-Qaeda fighters to negotiate the release of a French co-worker who was kidnapped in April. 

On April 22, the ICRC said a French member of its staff was abducted in western Yemen.

There has been no news of him since then.

UN human rights investigator Christof Heyns called on Tuesday in Geneva, the Obama administration to justify its policy of "assassinating" rather than capturing al-Qaeda or Taliban suspects, increasingly with the use of "unmanned" drone aircraft that also kill civilians.


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