Yemeni tribal leaders say security forces have killed two suspected al-Qaida operatives in the country's southern province of Abyan.

They say the two men were killed in a shootout with security forces in a raid of their hideout in the district of al-Wadiah.

The tribal leaders spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has long been seen by U.S. officials as the most dangerous offshoot of the global network founded by Osama bin Laden.

Yemen is embroiled in a war between Iran-backed Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and the internationally recognized government, which is allied with a Saudi-led military coalition since March 2015.

Al-Qaida and a local Islamic State affiliate have exploited the chaos to expand their reach in the poorest Arab country.