The four raids overnight appeared to have been carried out by US planes, one tribal official said.
Al Qaeda extremists have taken advantage of months of political turmoil in Yemen to overrun swathes of the country's south.
The air strikes took place in the Loder and Al-Wadih areas of Abyan province, southeast of the capital Sanaa, one official said.
"We think they were carried out by American planes," another tribal official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Three of the raids targeted a school in which Al Qaeda fighters and chiefs of a local militant network were meeting around midnight, the sources said.
Among the people killed was regional Al Qaeda leader Abdul Monem al Fahtani, who has long been sought by the Yemeni authorities, and other local chiefs.
The fourth strike hit an Al Qaeda control post, killing three more people.
"Two planes carried out these raids and continued to fly over the region through the night," a tribal chief said.
The New York Times reported several months ago that the United States had stepped up its raids against suspected militants in Yemen with the aid of drones and other aircraft.
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