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Yemen, the Arab world’s most impoverished nation, has become a haven for hundreds of al Qaeda militants. The United States has been deeply concerned that militants will take advantage of the country’s political turmoil to strengthen their positions. In recent months, militants have seized control of several cities in Yemen’s south.

A previous attack against al-Awlaki on May 5, shortly after the May raid that killed Osama bin Laden, was carried out by a combination of U.S. drones and jets.

The operation was run by the U.S. military’s elite counterterrorism unit, the Joint Special Operations Command — the same unit that got bin Laden. JSOC has worked closely with Yemeni counterterrorism forces for years, in the fight against al-Qaida.

Top U.S. counterterrorism adviser John Brennan says such cooperation with Yemen has improved since the political unrest there. Brennan said the Yemenis have been more willing to share information about the location of al Qaeda targets, as a way to fight the Yemeni branch challenging them for power. Other U.S. officials say the Yemenis have also allowed the U.S. to fly more armed drone and aircraft missions over its territory than ever previously, trying to use U.S. military power to stay in power. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.

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AP correspondent Matt Apuzzo in Washington contributed to this report.