`Qaeda` cleric Awlaqi escapes Yemen drone attack

US-Yemeni cleric and terror suspect Anwar al-Awlaqi narrowly escaped a US drone attack three days after American commandos killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, a tribal source said

Aden: US-Yemeni cleric and terror
suspect Anwar al-Awlaqi narrowly escaped a US drone attack
three days after American commandos killed al Qaeda chief
Osama bin Laden, a tribal source said on Saturday.

Thursday`s strike in Yemen`s Shabwa province, a
stronghold of al Qaeda, is the first reported American
targeting of other key figures in the terror network after a
stealthy commando raid killed bin Laden inside Pakistan
Monday.

A source from Awlaqi`s tribe in Shabwa province east
of Sanaa said the cleric was travelling with a Saudi
al Qaeda member when they were targeted by a US drone strike.
The car was slightly damaged but the two men escaped
unharmed.

"Their car had minor damage, but they were able to
proceed in another car," said the source who is linked to the
local administration in the region where Awlaqi`s tribe has
considerable influence.

The drone attack hit another car in which two local
Qaeda members, both brothers, were travelling. It killed them
and wounded a third.

It was not immediately clear if Awlaqi was targeted
following information the US had said it gathered from Osama
bin Laden`s million-dollar villa near the Pakistan capital
Islamabad.

Awlaqi, an American citizen who remains at large in
Yemen, is suspected of being a leader of al Qaeda in the
Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and of instigating a string of
attacks against the United States.

The Yemeni defence ministry has confirmed the killing
of two brothers on Thursday, but did not elaborate on the
circumstances of their deaths. Security sources identified
them as Abdullah and Mubarak al-Harad.

Witnesses said they saw a missile fired by an aircraft
hit the two brothers, who died instantly.

The Washington Post reported in November that
President Barack Obama`s administration had deployed unmanned
Predator drones in Yemen to hunt for al Qaeda operatives.

Yemen has come under intense pressure to crack down on
AQAP since a Christmas 2009 attempt to blow up a US airliner
that was claimed by the group.

The Saudi and Yemeni al Qaeda branches merged in
January 2009 to form the Yemen-based AQAP.

A local security official said meanwhile that al Qaeda
fighters raided a farm owned by President Ali Abdullah Saleh
in south Yemen today, sparking a firefight in which one
jihadist was killed and two wounded.

The clash occurred at dawn on the farm at Zinjibar,
the capital of Abyan province which is also a hotbed of
al Qaeda activity, the security official said.

He said armed men had also attacked a riot police
post, an army camp and a telecommunications building in
Zinjibar with mortars overnight, but caused no casualties.

PTI