Nation/World

CIA missile kills key al-Qaida leader

Al-Quso was wanted for 2000 attack on USS Cole

SANAA, Yemen – An airstrike Sunday killed a top al-Qaida leader on the FBI’s most wanted list for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship, Yemeni officials said. The drone attack was carried out by the CIA, U.S. officials said.

Fahd al-Quso was hit by a missile as he stepped out of his vehicle, along with another al-Qaida operative in the southern Shabwa province, Yemeni military officials said. They were speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with military regulations.

The drone strike that killed al-Quso was carried out by the CIA, after an extended surveillance operation by the CIA and U.S. military, two U.S. officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The strike was authorized by the Yemeni government, which then made the announcement after the operation was complete, the officials said, part of the U.S. strategy to give the host government more public ownership of the operation being carried out on Yemeni soil.

The airstrike came as the U.S. and Yemen cooperate in a battle against al-Qaida in southern Yemen.

Al-Quso, 37, was on the FBI’s most wanted list, with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. He was indicted in the U.S. for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in the harbor of Aden, Yemen, in which 17 American sailors were killed and 39 injured.

He served more than five years in a Yemeni prison for his role in the attack and was released in 2007. He briefly escaped prison in 2003 but later turned himself in to serve the rest of his sentence.

A telephone text message claiming to be from al-Qaida’s media arm confirmed al-Quso was killed in the strike.

Al-Quso was also one of the most senior al-Qaida leaders publicly linked to the 2009 Christmas airliner attack. He allegedly met with the suspected Nigerian bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in Yemen before he left on his way to execute his failed attack over Detroit with a bomb concealed in his underwear.

In December 2010, al-Quso was designated a global terrorist by the State Department, an indication that his role in al-Qaida’s Yemen offshoot, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, had grown more prominent.

Local Yemeni official Abu Bakr bin Farid and the Yemeni Embassy in Washington confirmed al-Quso was killed in Rafd, a remote mountain valley in Shabwa. It is the area where many al-Qaida leaders are believed to have taken cover, including the U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Yemen last year.

Yemeni government officials reported that al-Quso and al-Awlaki were killed in an airstrike in 2009 in Rafd, but they both resurfaced alive.

Al-Quso was known for his ability to move in disguise. He was from the same tribe as al-Awlaki, and local tribesmen said he was a close aide. He studied ultraconservative Salafi Islam as a teenager in northern Yemen then returned home to learn welding.

The White House and the State Department had no immediate comment.



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