SANAA - Seventeen suspected Al-Qaeda militants were killed in an air raid that struck one of their hideouts in the southern town of Loder, the defence ministry said on Sunday.

The late Sunday attack brought to 57 the number of insurgents reportedly killed in south Yemen over the past three days, according to the defence ministry. AFP could not independently verify the toll.

“Seventeen Al-Qaeda terrorists were killed in an air raid that targeted one of their positions southeast of Loder,” the defence ministry’s news website 26sep.net reported. It was unclear if the strike was carried out by the Yemeni air force or by US drones. On Wednesday the Washington Post said US drones have carried out eight airs strikes in Yemen in the past four months.

Militants have been trying to seize control of Loder in the restive southern province of Abyan to expand their grip on the region.

According to the Washington Post the CIA is seeking permission to launch more airborne drone strikes in Yemen, even when there is a risk the victims might not always be terrorists. If President Barack Obama’s administration gives the CIA permission for the strikes, it could represent a politically dangerous escalation of US military activity in Yemen, the Post said.