SANAA, Yemen (AP) — An airstrike Sunday killed a top al Qaeda leader on the FBI’s most-wanted list for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship, Yemeni officials said. The airstrike resembled earlier U.S. drone attacks, but the United States did not immediately confirm it.
Fahd al-Quso was hit by a missile as he stepped out of his vehicle, along with another al Qaeda operative in the southern Shabwa province, Yemeni military officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with military regulations.
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 in the USS Cole in 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.
Al-Quso was also one of the most senior al Qaeda leaders publicly linked to the failed 2009 Christmas airliner attack near Detroit. He allegedly met with the convicted bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in Yemen before the incident
Local Yemeni official Abu Bakr bin Farid and the Yemeni Embassy in Washington confirmed that al-Quso was killed in Rafd, a remote mountain valley in Shabwa. It is the area where many of al Qaeda leaders are believed to have taken cover, including the U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, killed in a U.S. airstrike in Yemen last year.
Al-Quso was from the same tribe as al-Awlaki.
The State Department had no immediate comment.
The new Yemeni president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, has promised improved cooperation with the U.S. to combat the militants. On Saturday, he said the fight against al Qaeda is in its early stages.
Al-Quso’s association with al Qaeda dated back more than a decade, when he met with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Bin Laden allegedly told him to “eliminate the infidels from the Arabian Peninsula.”
From there he rose through the ranks. He was assigned in Aden to videotape the 1998 suicide bombing of the USS Cole, but he fell asleep.
Despite the lapse, he became a midlevel manager.