Yemen air strike on Al Qaeda: Was cleric linked to Fort Hood shooting killed?

Yemen said it killed more than two dozen suspected Al Qaeda militants reportedly meeting at the residence of Anwar al Aulaqi, a Yemeni-American who was in contact with the suspected Fort Hood shooter.

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Yemen security forces today announced that air strikes targeting Al Qaeda operatives killed more than two dozen suspected militants and demolished the house where a Yemeni-American cleric linked to the Ft. Hood shooter was believed to be living.

The attack was the second in a week, as the US steps up pressure and aid for thwarting what is perceived as a growing terrorism threat in Yemen.

Early this morning, Yemeni planes killed an estimated 30 Al Qaeda suspects from Yemen and abroad in the southern Shabwa governorate, reported Yemen’s English-language Saba News outlet. The outlet quoted a government source as saying the attack targeted an Al Qaeda meeting to plan retaliatory operations after a similar air strike in Sanaa and Abyan governorates Dec. 17.

The Yemen Observer reported that the house where Anwar al-Aulaqi, the radical cleric linked to Ft. Hood shooter Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, had been destroyed during the Al Qaeda meeting.

But in a thorough piece with interviews from Mr. Aulaqi’s relatives, the Washington Post cast doubt on whether Yemeni forces hit either the house or the New Mexico-born cleric.

The US government has in the past year intensified pressure on Yemen to thwart what it sees as a growing threat that the weak state could turn into a haven for terrorism, according to the Associated Press. US military aid has risen from $0 in 2008 to $70 million in 2009 – with funds allocated for ships, Coast Guard equipment, border security, and helicopters with night cameras, the AP reported. Washington has also provided counterterrorism training.

The Long War Journal's Bill Roggio sketched a useful portrait of two of the key suspected Al Qaeda militants who were reportedly targeted in today’s strike, Mr. Whaishi (also spelled Wuhayshi) and Mr. Shihri.

Mr. Roggio added that Shihri was released from Guantánamo into Saudi custody in late 2007 and put through a rehabilitation program for former jihadists – a program The Christian Science Monitor reported on in August 2008. He also said that Shihri was involved in the attack on the US embassy in Sanaa last year.

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