WASHINGTON – Al-Qaida’s top bomb maker in Yemen did not die in a drone strike on a convoy, a top Yemeni official said Sunday, a report that dashed the hopes of U.S. officials who thought the attack might have killed a trio of top al-Qaida personnel.
The U.S. drone strike Friday killed U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and an American propagandist, Samir Khan, who published a slick English-language online magazine that spouted al-Qaida’s anti-Western ideology.
U.S. intelligence officials had said it appeared that bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri was among the dead. However, on Sunday the Yemeni official released a list of two others whose bodies had been identified and noted that al-Asiri was not one of them. The Yemeni official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
The Saudi-born Al-Asiri, 29, was tied to the so-called underwear bomb that was used in an attempt to bring down a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day in 2009. A Nigerian man has been charged in that attack. Al-Asiri was also believed to have been behind a pair of explosives-laden printer cartridges mailed from Yemen to the U.S. in 2010.
There was no immediate official word from the U.S. regarding the identities of the bodies.
Al-Asiri has been described as a critical component of al-Qaida’s activities in Yemen, and his death would be a significant blow to the organization.
Even before officials determined al-Asiri had not died in the strike, anti-terrorism experts noted that al-Qaida remained a powerful threat in Yemen. Months of political turmoil in the Mideast nation has helped the group grow stronger.