Yemen's embassy in Washington says its nation's air force launched an airstrike on an Al Qaeda hideout ahead of a likely terror attack, killing two senior members.

"Our air force carried out a raid on terrorist elements who were planning attacks on vital installations (and) two Al Qaeda leaders were killed," said a statement on the defense ministry's website.

It did not specify what installations were being targeted, but said that the air strike happened in Moudia region - around 300 miles southeast of Sanaa - which is close to the oil-rich province of Shabwa.

The airstrike was carried out Sunday in Yemen's Abyan province. Yemen's ministry of defense, in a statement released by the embassy, said the Al Qaeda group was planning "an imminent attack on a strategic installation" in retaliation for stepped-up counterterrorism efforts.

Working with U.S. intelligence officials, Yemen has recently boosted its counterterrorism efforts. Last week it announced the arrest of a U.S. citizen accused of being part of Yemen's al-Qaida branch.

The Al Qaeda division in Yemen has been linked to the failed bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day. It has also been the subject of increased concern by U.S. counterterrorism officials.

The Associated Press and NewsCore contributed to this report.