US launches new round of drone strikes against al Qaeda in Yemen

American forces launched a pair of armed drone strikes on Tuesday, killing four suspected members of al Qaeda's dangerous Yemeni terror cell. 

Reportedly among the dead was Saleh Jouti, a senior al Qaeda member, according to recent reports by The Associated Press

Tuesday's strikes, which took place near the Marib district just outside the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, was the fourth such strike carried out by American military and intelligence forces in the past 10 days. 

The al Qaeda members killed in Tuesday's strike were likely members of the group's affiliate in Yemen, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

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Threats of a possible large-scale attack by AQAP fighters against American targets in the Mideast and North Africa prompted the Obama administration to shutter 19 U.S. embassies and consulates in the region. 

On Tuesday, Washington ordered the evacuation of all "non emergency" U.S. personnel from Yemen. 

“U.S. citizens currently in Yemen should depart. As staff levels at the Embassy are restricted, our ability to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency and provide routine consular services remains limited," according to a State Department warning. 

“The security threat level in Yemen is extremely high,” the note warned. 

Air Force aircraft facilitated the evacuation, Pentagon press secretary George Little said on Tuesday. 

That said, the Pentagon "continues to have personnel on the ground in Yemen to support the U.S. State Department and monitor the security situation," Little said in a statement. 

Pentagon leaders are also keeping U.S. special operations forces in the region on full alert, ready to carry out preemptive strikes against the al Qaeda cells plotting to attack American diplomatic outposts. 

Tuesday's evacuation warning came after U.S. intelligence officials intercepted communications between al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the head of al Qaeda's Yemen faction. 

The intercepted communications reportedly detailed conversations between the two al Qaeda leaders, with al-Zawahiri pressing al-Wuhayshi to carry out large-scale attacks against U.S. and Western targets. 

Due to the seriousness of the AQAP threat, the State Department announced Sunday that the embassies would remain closed for another week after a meeting between President Obama and senior leaders of his national security team on Saturday. 

Al Qaeda's Yemeni cell is considered one of the organization's best funded and most dangerous faction, responsible for three attempted bombings of commercial aircraft bound for the United States over the past several years.