A Yemeni jihadist claimed that an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operative linked to the suicide attack against the USS Cole in Aden in late 2000 was killed by a US drone strike three days ago in southern Yemen.
Abdul Mun’im Salim al Fatahani (or Abdel-Monem al Fathani), was killed in the Jan. 31 Predator airstrike near the city of Lawder in Abyan province, according to a statement posted yesterday on two prominent jihadist Internet forums. He was reportedly killed the same day the strike took place, but his death was not confirmed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Nasir al Wuhayshi, the emir or leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, “broke down in tears before noon today on the road between ‘Azzan in Shabwa and Mudiyah in Abyan province, upon seeing the body of the leader Abdul Mun’im Salim Amqidah al Fatahani,” according to the statement, which was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
“Fatahani had died in [an] Azzan hospital after getting hit in the neck with shrapnel, which resulted from an American airstrike against two cars belonging to Ansar al Shariah last night in the area of al Khadirah,” the statement continued. Ansar al Shariah is al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s political front.
According the statement, Fatahani was buried in the “Tha’obah cemetery, in northern Mudiyah,” a town in Abyan province, where he was born. Mudiyah is known to host a large training camp for the terror group. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda opens new training camp in Yemen.]
Fatahani is said have been involved in the October 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole in the port of Aden that killed 17 US sailors and put the warship out of commission for months before it was repaired. The Yemeni jihadist also said that Fatahani was involved in the bombing that damaged the Limburg, an oil tanker, in 2002.
The Jan. 31 strike near Lawdar is the first reported attack by the US since Dec. 22, 2011, when US drones are said to have targeted Abdul Rahman al Wuhayshi, the brother of Nasir al Wuhayshi, the emir of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Abdul Rahman was targeted in Dofas near Zinjibar. He is rumored to have been killed, but his death was never confirmed. AQAP did not announce his death.
Last fall, the US killed Anwar al Awlaki, the ideologue and operational commander of the terror group, and his son, Abdul Rahman, in separate strikes in southern Yemen. [For more information on the US airstrikes in Yemen, see LWJ report, US drone strike kills 11 AQAP leaders, fighters: report.]
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.