Al Qaeda’s top bomb maker in Yemen did not die in a drone strike on a convoy, a top Yemeni official said today, dashing American hopes that the attack might have killed a trio of top terrorists.
The U.S. drone strike on Friday killed U.S.-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.
U.S. 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 U.S. in 2010.
There was no immediate official word from the U.S. 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 organization.
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.
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“The truth is, there is no Islamic army or terrorist group called Al Qaeda. And any informed intelligence officer knows this. But there is a propaganda campaign to make the public believe in the presence of an identified entity representing the ‘devil’ only in order to drive the TV watcher to accept a unified international leadership for a war against terrorism. The country behind this propaganda is the US.”
– Robin Cook, Former British Foreign Secretary
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