Washington: Al Qaeda’s top bomb maker in Yemen did not die in a drone strike on a convoy, a top Yemeni official said on Sunday, a report that dashed the hopes of US officials who thought the attack might have killed a trio of top al Qaeda personnel.
The US drone strike on Friday killed US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and an American propagandist, Samir Khan, who published a slick English-language web magazine that spouted al Qaeda’s anti-Western ideology.
US intelligence officials had said it appeared that bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri was among the dead. However, on Sunday the Yemeni official released a list of two others whose bodies had been identified and noted that al-Asiri was not one of them. The Yemeni official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
The Saudi-born Al-Asiri, 29, was tied to the so-called underwear bomb that was used in an attempt to bring down a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day in 2009. A Nigerian man has been charged in that attack. Al-Asiri was also believed to have been behind an intercepted pair of explosives-laden printers that were mailed from Yemen to the US in 2010.
There was no immediate official word from the US regarding the identities of the bodies.
Al-Asiri has been described as a critical component of al Qaeda’s activities in Yemen and his death would be a significant blow to the organisation.
Even before officials determined al-Asiri had not died in the strike, anti-terrorism experts noted that al Qaeda remained a powerful threat in Yemen. Months of political turmoil in the Mideast nation has helped the group grow stronger.