Suspected US air strikes took out a raft of top al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen barely two weeks after a drone killed US-born jihadist cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi,provincial and tribal sources said today.
The seven killed in last evening’s triple raid included a son and cousin of Awlaqi,as well as three other members of his tribe and the media chief of Al-Qaeda’s feared Yemen arm,the sources said.
The Yemeni defence ministry confirmed that seven Al-Qaeda militants,including its regional media chief,had been killed in a raid.
But it reiterated its standard denial of US involvement in offensive operations on Yemeni soil and insisted its own forces carried it out.
A member of the Awlaqi tribe said the tribal members killed included Awlaqi’s 21-year-old son Abderrahman and Sarhan al-Qussa’a,brother of Fahd al-Qussa’a,a leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula he said was on a US wanted list.
The defence ministry said that AQAP’s Egyptian media chief Ibrahim al-Banna’a was also among the dead,describing him as wanted “internationally” for “planning attacks both inside and outside Yemen.”
Banna’a was “in charge of the media arm of AQAP” and was one of the group’s “most dangerous operatives,” the ministry said.
The trio of strikes came in the militant-held town of Azzan in Shabwa province,one of three in Yemen’s restive southeast that Al-Qaeda has turned into strongholds.
“Three strikes,apparently American,which were launched against positions held by Al-Qaeda militants in Azzan,one of the group’s bastions,killed seven of them,” a Shabwa provincial official said.