Yemeni tribal officials say a prominent al-Qaida leader was killed in a drone strike overnight, along with three others in the southern province of Abin.

Jalal Baliedy headed al-Qaida in the province and led major attacks, including the beheading of soldiers, the officials said.

Washington considers al-Qaeda's Yemen branch to be the most dangerous offshoot of the network.

The group is blamed for a number of unsuccessful bomb plots aimed at Americans, including an attempt to bring down a U.S.-bound airliner with an explosive hidden in the bomber's underwear and a second plot to send mail bombs hidden in printer toner cartridges on planes headed to the U.S.

The officials declined to be named out of fear of reprisals.