- Associated Press - Monday, December 24, 2012

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A U.S. drone airstrike killed two al Qaeda militants Monday in a southern town, Yemeni security officials said, the latest in a yearslong U.S. offensive against the branch the U.S. considers the violent extremists’ most dangerous.

One of the dead was a midlevel al Qaeda Yemeni operative who escaped a U.S. drone attack 10 years ago, the officials said. The other was said to be a Jordanian.

They said the airstrike on Radda in Bayda province also critically injured three militants.

The Yemeni militant, Abdel-Raouf Naseeb, escaped death in the first recorded drone attack in Yemen, on Nov. 3, 2002. That strike killed Abu Ali al-Harithi, suspected of masterminding the October 2000 attack against the USS Cole warship in the Yemeni port of Aden.


A member of the Naseeb family, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fears of government reprisal, confirmed his death to The Associated Press.

Al Qaeda in Yemen was behind several failed attacks in the U.S., including the 2009 Christmas Day attempted bombing over Detroit, when a man on a passenger plane tried to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear.

Earlier this year, a band of al Qaeda militants captured Radda and raised the black al Qaeda flag over an ancient castle that overlooks the town. They also stormed the local jail and freed about 150 inmates, including an unspecified number loyal to al Qaeda, but tribal leaders eventually forced the militants out with the help of the army.

Also Monday, four tribesmen were killed in Yemeni artillery strikes on areas in the northeastern province of Marib, where armed tribesmen, who maintain cordial ties with al Qaeda, have been accused of attacks on oil pipelines and power generating stations, security officials said.

The security officials requested anonymity, according to regulations.

Two months ago, tribesmen in Marib blew up main pylons and sabotaged an oil pipeline to protest a death sentence against one of their members convicted of belonging to al Qaeda and killing security agents.

Some tribal chiefs also are suspected of being allied with former longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The attacks appeared to be aimed at undermining the new government.