Predator strike in Yemen targeted Anwar al Awlaki


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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Soccer says:

    Take a look at the last quoted paragraph of the article We were SO CLOSE to getting him!!
    Why didn’t they just keep tracking him, and send more drones that were loaded with missiles after the vehicle????
    You must answer this question, Bill.

  • Charu says:

    There is no question that al Awlaki is the number one target now that bin Laden sleeps with the fishes. Awlaki’s deranged calls for jihad resonate greatly with young Muslims residing in the West. Let’s hope that his days are numbered. Go SEALS!

  • My2Cents says:

    If at first you don’t succeed . . . oh, you know the rest.

  • Paul D says:

    getter closer!

  • kp says:

    @Soccer: there are a finite number of drones on the planet and they’re all in use. I suspect there were only a couple in place on this flight. I also suspect the misses are not so much bad shooting as evasive action by the drivers: they might have learned something from FATA attacks on vehicles. Looks like the car switch was an effort to confuse the tracking too. We did hit the the original vehicle just the wrong occupants (perhaps thinking at the time we had the right one).

    Hmmm, did the ID (from folks we didn’t kill) come from face-rec from the drones or the Yemenis?

    Frustrating to get so close and not get a kill. AAA might take a lot more care in future. He knows we are deadly serious.

  • Paul says:

    What are we waiting for…..send in STSix!


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