Yemeni Al-Qaeda leader Fahd al-Quso, who was wanted in connection with the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, has been killed in an air raid in eastern Yemen on Sunday, a tribal chief said.
Al-Qaeda, which has strongholds in southern and eastern Yemen, confirmed Quso’s slaying in an SMS text message sent to reporters that could not be immediately verified.
“Fahd al-Quso, who was wanted by the United States for the attack against the USS Cole, was killed tonight (Sunday) in an American raid on the Rafadh region” in the Shabwa province, tribal chief Abdel Magid bin Farid al-Awlaki told AFP.
The October 2000 attack on the US Navy destroyer, the USS Cole, in Yemen’s port of Aden killed 17 sailors and wounded 40 more.
Quso was killed when two missiles slammed near his home in Rafadh, east of Ataq, the provincial capital of Shabwa province, the tribal chief said, adding that two of the suspect’s body guards were also killed in the raid.
A US government official welcome the death of the “senior terrorist operative,” saying he had been actively planning attacks against the United States and Yemen.
“Fahd al-Quso was a senior terrorist operative of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who was deeply involved in ongoing terrorist plotting against Yemeni and US interests at the time of his death,” the official said, requesting anonymity to speak about the matter.
“He was also involved in numerous attacks over many years that murdered Americans as well as Yemeni men, women and children.”
Quso’s name figured on an FBI list of most wanted terrorists, along with a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest.
In its text message, Al-Qaeda said: “The martyr Sheikh Fahd al-Quso was martyred, killed in an American raid this afternoon in Rafadh.”
The Yemeni embassy in Washington also confirmed the death of “one of the most wanted terrorists in Yemen.”
Al-Qaeda had claimed responsibility for the attack on the USS Cole, which was carried out when militants riding an explosives-laden skiff blew a 30-by-30-foot (10-by-10-meter) hole in the USS Cole.
The USS Cole was in the port of Aden for a routine fuel stop when it was attacked.
Quso belonged to the powerful Al-Awlak tribe of US-Yemeni cleric and terror suspect Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in September.
US intelligence officials believed Awlaki was linked to a US army major charged with shooting dead 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, and to a Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a US airliner on December 25, 2009.
He was also believed to be the leader of external operations of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — the local Al-Qaeda branch in Yemen.
In April, The Washington Post said that the CIA is seeking permission to launch more drone strikes in Yemen, adding that there have been at least eight US raids in Yemen in first four months of this year.
The United States has never formally acknowledged the use of drones against Al-Qaeda in Yemen, and the Yemeni government continues to deny that such air strikes take place.
According to the Washington Post, US drones are launched from a secret base in the Arabian Peninsula.