Yemen says Fort Hood-linked imam may be dead

Thursday, December 24, 2009

SANAA (Reuters) - The leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and a Muslim preacher linked by U.S. intelligence to deaths at a U.S. army base are believed to have died in a Yemen air strike, a security official said on Thursday.

Yemen said 30 militants were killed in the strike in the eastern province of Shabwa.

Among those believed killed was Anwar al Awlaki, whom U.S. officials linked to the gunman who killed 13 people at the Fort Hood army base in Texas on November 5.

"Anwar al Awlaki is suspected to be dead (in the air raid)," said the Yemeni official, who asked not to be identified.

The air attack targeted a meeting of militants planning an attack on Yemeni and foreign oil targets, the official said.

He added that the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Abu Basir Nasser al-Wahayshi, may also have been killed in the strikes but that there was no confirmation.

"We are still unsure if two of the top leaders have been killed or not. One of them is the ... al Qaeda member Nasser al-Wahayshi," he said, declining to say whether more strikes would take place on Thursday.

Saudi and Yemeni militants said earlier this year they were uniting under the name Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, using Yemen as their base.

In a video announcement earlier this year, al-Wahayshi, a Yemeni, threatened attacks against Westerners in the oil-exporting region. The group has also called for the overthrow of the U.S.-allied Saudi royal family.

Al Arabiya television said there had been four air strikes.

Yemen's Supreme Security Committee issued a warning to citizens in the province of Shabwa not to aid the militants.

On Monday, Yemen said its security forces and war planes last week foiled a planned series of suicide bombings. About 30 al Qaeda militants were killed in those airstrikes with 17 arrested in Abyan and in Arhab, northeast of the capital Sanaa.

Yemen, which has intensified its campaign against Al Qaeda militants over recent weeks, is also facing a Shi'ite rebellion in the north and secessionist violence in the south.



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