(Clarifies interior ministry spoke of air strikes, not drone attacks)
SANAA, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Five suspected al Qaeda fighters have been killed by two air strikes in Yemen's southern province of Abyan, the country's interior ministry said on Friday.
A ministry statement said the militants were killed on Thursday but did not say whether the strikes were launched by Yemen or the United States.
However, local officials in Abyan, which was a stronghold for Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and other militant groups during an uprising that ousted veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh last year, told Reuters the strikes were carried out by American drones.
AQAP is regarded by the United States as one of the most active wings of the militant network, posing a serious threat to Western interests including oil tanker traffic in the Gulf.
Last year, the Yemeni army, with U.S. backing, drove al Qaeda militants and their allies from some of their southern strongholds. But the jihadists have since regrouped and mounted attacks on government officials and installations.
The U.S. regularly unleashes drone strikes against AQAP in a campaign that has been criticised by rights groups as executing suspects without trial, while civilians have often been hit. (Reporting by Mohamed Ghobari; Editing by Barry Moody)
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