Yemen Drone Strike Misses Al-Awlaki
The official said the missile was fired at an area in Southern Yemen where intelligence said Anwar al-Awlaki was known to be. The strike apparently missed Awlaki, but may have killed up to two Al Qaeda operatives operating in the area.
The New York Times reported:
It was the first American strike in Yemen using a remotely piloted drone since 2002, when the C.I.A. struck a car carrying a group of suspected militants, including an American citizen, who were believed to have Qaeda ties. And the attack came just three days after American commandos invaded a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and killed Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al Qaeda.
The attack on Thursday was part of a clandestine Pentagon program to hunt members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group believed responsible for a number of failed attempts to strike the United States, including the thwarted plot to blow up a transatlantic jet on Christmas Day 2009 as it was preparing to land in Detroit.
Senior officials said this attack was unconnected to Sunday's raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. Instead, the attack may have resulted from stepped up efforts by the CIA in Yemen in conjunction with the Saudi government.
From The Wall Street Journal:
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been more forthcoming with information on Mr. Awlaki since he has faced major protests in his country, a U.S. official said. Mr. Saleh has sought to use that information in a bartering effort to gain more support from the U.S., the official added. The White House has backed an Arab proposal that would ease Mr. Saleh from office.
The strike sends a clear message that despite turmoil in the Middle East and the success of the bin Laden operation, the U.S. is resolved to ratchet up an aggressive campaign targeting Mr. Awlaki and other members of his group.
The attempt to kill Mr. Awlaki was the first known U.S. military strike inside Yemen since May 2010, when U.S. missiles mistakenly killed one of Mr. Saleh's envoys and an unknown number of other people. That soured relations and prompted the administration to pull back.
A U.S. official also confirmed the drone was under the control of the U.S. military, not the CIA.