Yemen says it killed al-Qa'ida leaders

Yemeni forces have attacked suspected al-Qa'ida bases with the help of US intelligence. They targeted a gathering of top militant leaders, possibly killing a radical imam associated with the suspect in the recent Fort Hood massacre, officials said.

Thursday, Yemen's embassy in Washington, D.C., released a statement confirming the attack. "Today, Yemeni fighter jets launched an aerial assault at 4:30 a.m., on a remote location in the province of Shabwa," Yemeni officials said. "The assault targeted a meeting of senior al Qaeda operatives, 403 miles southeast of Sana'a, the capital of Yemen. Preliminary reports suggest that the strike targeted scores of Yemeni and foreign al Qaeda operatives."

At least 30 militants were believed to be killed. Pentagon officials could not confirm whether the US-born cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki was killed in the strike. Al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico and attended Colorado State University before moving in 2002 to Yemen.

The imam reportedly corresponded by email with Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who is charged with killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, last month. Along with Al-Awlaki, the top leader of al-Qa'ida's branch in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, Naser Abdel-Karim al-Wahishi, and his deputy Saeed al-Shihri were also believed to be at the meeting, the Yemeni embassy in Washington said. The strike "targeted scores of Yemeni and foreign al-Qa'ida operatives," the Yemeni embassy said. It added that Al-Wahishi, al-Shihri and al-Awlaki "were presumed to be at the site".

But Peter Bergen, an Al-Qaeda expert at the New American Foundation, says Awlaki was merely "important as an inciter to jihad, no more." Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University says it's unlikely Awlaki would have beeen involved in operational activities. "He was a cleric, not a field commander," he says.

The assault came just a week after a series of attacks at the direction of President Barack Obama himself.

White House officials told ABC News that the orders for the U.S. military to attack the suspected al Qaeda sites in Yemen last week came directly from the Oval Office. The action represented a major escalation by Obama in his efforts to go after the terror group in yet another country.

On Friday, a friend of the cleric, Abu Bakr al-Awlaki, told The Associated Press he was not among those killed. He refused to say if the cleric was attending the meeting.

Abu Bakr al-Awlaki was in Shabwa and in contact with the gunmen in control of the area following the strike. He is not related to the cleric, but the two are from the same tribe and carry the same last name.



Post a Comment