ATAQ, YEMEN (BNO NEWS) -- Senior al-Qaeda operative Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, who was wanted in connection for his alleged role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, was killed Sunday in a U.S. drone strike in southeast Yemen, officials said.
Several suspected militants were killed on Sunday when a U.S. drone carried out an airstrike on a vehicle in the eastern province of Shabwah, although the exact location was not immediately released. "An airstrike killed Fahd al-Quso in Shabwah," said Mohammed Albasha, a spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Al-Quso, 37, was previously indicted by the United States over his alleged role in the October 12, 2000, bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, killing 17 sailors and injuring 39 others. He was arrested by Yemeni authorities in April 2003 but escaped from prison soon after. He was recaptured about 11 months later, convicted by a Yemeni court and then released in 2007 despite U.S. protests.
Al-Qaeda's media arm As-Sahab confirmed the death of al-Quso, who was a senior operative for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The top militant had been reported killed on several occasions in recent years, but those reports were never confirmed by either al-Qaeda or the governments involved.
Most recently, in late 2010, reports emerged citing intelligence officials that al-Quso had been killed on September 8 in a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan's North Waziristan. But months later, in mid-December 2010, the Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat said one of its reporters had met with al-Quso in the mountainous Shabwa governorate in southeast Yemen.
Asharq Al-Awsat reported that al-Quso expressed his surprise at reports that he had been killed in Pakistan and described them as a 'rumor'. Al-Quso also said he was surprised about reports that he was in Waziristan, particularly in light of "the situation in Yemen, which is similar to the situation in Pakistan."
Al-Quso was asked if he had received offers from the Yemeni government to surrender himself in return for certain guarantees and promises, but he did not comment on this specifically. "We will not give up our religion and the principles that we hold in our hearts. This is unlikely," he said at the time, according to the newspaper.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has orchestrated high-profile attacks since 2009, is based primarily in the tribal areas outside of the Yemeni capital city Sanaa, which remain outside the control of the Yemeni government. But the United States and Yemen have been cooperating to combat the militants.
Most notably, AQAP sent Nigerian-born Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who attempted to detonate an explosive device aboard a Northwest Airlines flight on December 25, 2009. This was the first attempted U.S. homeland attack by an al-Qaeda affiliate since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
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