An airstrike Sunday killed a top al-Qaida leader on the FBI's most wanted list for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship, Yemeni officials said. The drone attack was carried out by the CIA, U.S. officials said.
Fahd al-Quso was hit by a missile as he stepped out of his vehicle, along with another al-Qaida operative in the southern Shabwa province, Yemeni military officials said. They were speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with military regulations.
The drone strike that killed Quso was carried out by the CIA, after an extended surveillance operation by the CIA and U.S. military, two U.S. officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The strike was authorized by the Yemeni government, which then made the announcement after the operation was complete, the officials said, part of the U.S. strategy to give the host government more public ownership of the operation being carried out on Yemeni soil.
The airstrike came as the U.S. and Yemen cooperate in a battle against al-Qaida in southern Yemen.
Al-Quso, 37, was on the FBI's most wanted list, with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. He was indicted in the U.S. for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in the harbor of Aden, Yemen, in which 17 American sailors were killed and 39 injured.
He served more than five years in a Yemeni prison for his role in the attack and was released in 2007. He briefly escaped prison in 2003 but later turned himself in to serve the rest of his sentence.
A telephone text message claiming to be from al-Qaida's media arm confirmed al-Quso was killed in the strike.
Al-Quso was also one of the most senior al-Qaida leaders publicly linked to the 2009 Christmas airliner attack. He allegedly met with the suspected Nigerian bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in Yemen before he left on his way to execute his failed attack over Detroit with a bomb concealed in his underwear.
While it's good that another bad guy is now headed to meet his 72 Virgins who look like Joy Behar, the downside is that's a batch of intelligence on possible terror attacks that has been silenced.