Take this with the usual dollop of skepticism, of course. We’ve seen major al-Qaeda figures rise from the dead, so to speak, over the years after being declared killed by drone strikes. If the reports are true, though, a very high-profile target will be out of commission for a while:
A Saudi national known to be a key al Qaeda bomb maker was wounded during a U.S.-led drone strike in Yemen, according to a Yemeni news report.
Ibrahim al Asiri, the bomb maker, was targeted during a missile strike launched from a U.S.-operated armed drone in southern Yemen that killed two other al Qaeda terrorists, the online Yemeni news outlet Al Watan reported Sunday.
A U.S. official had no public comment but urged caution regarding claims that al Asiri was dead.
The drone attack took place in Yemen’s southernmost Lahij Governorate that borders the Gulf of Aden. Covert, U.S. military-operated drones carried out the strike. The United States operates a drone base located in southern Saudi Arabia.
No one doubts that the US has had Asiri in its sights. In fact, at one time the US thought they had killed Asiri, in the same drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki. Instead, Asiri turned up again as a key figure in later bombing plots, apparently including this latest threat that had the US closing 19 of its embassies the past couple of weeks.
The death toll from the latest American drone campaign in response comes to 37, according to a tally by Reuters today:
At least two suspected Islamist militants were killed in a drone missile strike in Yemen’s southern Shabwa province, the latest in a surge since Washington warned of possible attacks by Al Qaida in the region.
At least 37 people have been killed in just over two weeks in a campaign targeting insurgents linked to Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), described by US officials as the most dangerous branch of the global jihadi network.
That campaign has been stepped up after intercepted communication between AQAP leader, Nasser Al Wuhaishi and Ayman Al Zawahiri, head of Al Qaida, along with other intelligence prompted Washington to close 19 US embassies this month.
“The car was completely obliterated and the two men inside it were killed,” a local official said, adding the strike happened late on Monday. He gave no further details.
We’ll see whether Asiri makes another return from the dead or near-dead.