Yemeni al-Qaida executes three spies
Police troopers ride atop a police vehicle as they secure a pro-government demonstration in SanaaKhaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi/Retuers

The Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has executed three suspected spies for allegedly helping US forces to launch drone attacks against Islamist militants in Yemen.

The three suspected spies were executed in the eastern Hadramout province, said local reports.

"The greatest help they give to the crusaders against the warriors is the placing of trackers for American spy planes," the al-Qaeda group, which is widely regarded as the most powerful and active al-Qaeda arm, said in an online statement.

The men had "become the eyes of the infidels ... (who) use their aircraft from the sky," said the militant group, adding: "We say to ... whoever considers becoming an eye and guide for the Americans and other infidels that the hands of the mujahedeen will reach every spy."

The US-operated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) usually require ground assistance to pin-point their target and such drone strikes have been inflicting serious damage on the dreaded Islamists in Yemen.

"Al-Qaeda militants executed the three men with gunfire after having tortured them," a Yemeni security official told AFP.

It is unclear whether the slaughtered men were civilians or local security personnel.

The American drone attacks evoke a mixed response among the Yemeni government and forces. Though the strikes are helpful in getting rid of the Islamist extremists, Yemen says many civilians are also killed.