Tribesmen and witnesses say a US drone strike killed two suspected al-Qaida militants in southern Yemen.

The witnesses, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, say the suspected militants were traveling in a car when the strike took place at dawn on Monday in the Shabwa province, in an area called Markha.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni franchise is known, is considered the most lethal branch of the global network, and has been linked to several sophisticated plots to attack the United States, all of which were botched or foiled.

The U.S. has for years launched drone strikes against militant targets in Yemen and provided hundreds of millions of dollars in security assistance to the government. Civilian casualties from the drone strikes have stoked anger.