Yesterday’s Predator airstrike in Shabwah province in Yemen targeted Anwar al Awlaki, the American who holds an influential position in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Awlaki, the AQAP recruiter, ideologue, and operational commander of attacks against the West, survived the strike while two other AQAP fighters were killed. From CNN:
The missile was fired at an area in southern Yemen that al-Awlaki is known to have frequented, the official said.
The official said the targeting information was not the result of information gathered from the seizure Monday of materials from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.
A U.S. defense official confirmed that the drone was under the control of the American military — not the CIA.
The defense official said the strike appears to have killed two al Qaeda operatives affiliated with al-Awlaki.
The Joint Special Operations Command is known to operate Predators just across the strait of Bab al Mandeb from Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. A Predator crashed off the coast of Djibouti on Jan. 14, 2011.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Predators targeted Awlaki twice during a 45-minute period:
In the first strike, the U.S. fired three rockets at a pickup truck in which Mr. Awlaki and a Saudi national and suspected al Qaeda member were traveling outside the village of Jahwa, located some 20 miles away from the Shebwa provincial capital, said local residents and the Yemeni security official. Those missiles didn’t hit their target.
Two Yemeni brothers, who were known by local residents for giving shelter to al Qaeda militants, rushed to the scene of the attack. Mr. Awlaki switched vehicles with them, leaving the two Yemenis in the pickup. A single drone then hit the pickup truck, killing the Yemenis inside. Mr. Awlaki escaped in the other vehicle along with the Saudi.
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