ADEN, Yemen, A U.S. drone killed five operatives of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda offshoot, in an overnight strike, as they were travelling through a mountainous road, in the south-eastern province of Shabwa, a local official said.

The local Yemeni official, based in Shabwa, said that, missiles fired by unmanned U.S. aircraft destroyed a vehicle and left five bodies badly burnt in the area.

A tribal chief confirmed the strike, saying, "a drone kept hovering for hours and then struck a car carrying five al-Qaeda operatives in Markhah area of Shabwa."

"The vehicle was completely destroyed and no one approached the scene, for fear of new air bombings," the tribal source added.

An intelligence source said, "The attack aimed at killing a high-ranking member of the al-Qaeda group. But investigators were unable to identify those killed because only charred remains of the bodies were left."

The southern province of Shabwa, now under the control of Yemeni troops backed by the United Arab Emirates, has recently witnessed a number of anti-terror offensives, against hideouts of al-Qaeda in the past weeks.

The U.S. military has carried out several air strikes against the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) fighters, in different provinces of the war-torn Arab country, since U.S. President Donald Trump approved expanded military operations against the group.

The Yemen-based al-Qaeda branch, seen by the United States as the global terror network's most dangerous branch, has exploited years of deadly conflict between Yemen's government and Houthi rebels, to expand its presence, especially in the south-eastern provinces.