A security official in Yemen says a suspected U.S. drone strike in the country's south has killed nine alleged al-Qaida militants amid the search for an American hostage.

The official said early Saturday the strike targeted militant hideouts in the southern province of Shabwa.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to brief journalists.

At least six suspected militants were killed in an airstrike in the same province last month.

The U.S. considers Yemen's al-Qaida branch to be the world's most dangerous as it has been linked to several failed attacks on the U.S. homeland.

This strike come amid a search for American photojournalist Luke Somers, held by al-Qaida militants following his abduction in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, in September 2013.