The tribal leaders said on Sunday that the operatives were killed when an unmanned aircraft targeted a group of al-Qaida militants in the district of Ahwar, one of al-Qaida's strongholds in the southern Abyan province.
They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Yemen was plunged into civil war more than three years ago. Al-Qaida and the Islamic State affiliate have exploited the chaos to expand their presence in the country.
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