"Several drone strikes have targeted Al-Qaeda positions in Nusab (in Shabwa province), killing nine members of the network," a security source told AFP.
A tribal leader said soldiers of an unknown nationality were seen parachuting into the area and clashes ensued, suggesting it could be a new operation to try to free the US hostage.
It was not immediately possible to verify that information.
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Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on Thursday threatened the imminent execution of US journalist Luke Somers who was kidnapped more than a year ago in Sanaa.
The United States has said that American and Yemeni forces recently tried unsuccessfully to rescue Somers.
According to Yemen's defence ministry, Al-Qaeda moved hostages, including the US journalist, a Briton and a South African, days before last month's US-Yemeni raid in southeastern Hadramawt province.
Yemen is a key US ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda, allowing Washington to conduct a longstanding drone war against the group on its territory.
AQAP is considered by Washington as the most dangerous affiliate of Al-Qaeda.