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SANAA - Radical US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi has been killed along with several other suspected Al-Qaeda

Awlaqi was believed to be a key leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

Tribal source says US aircraft fired on two cars carrying Awlaqi, several other suspected Al-Qaeda operatives in Marib province.

 

 

 operatives, the Yemeni defence ministry said on Friday.

It did not elaborate on the circumstances of Awlaqi's death in a statement released to the media.

But tribal sources said that Awlaqi, who was on a US wanted list, was killed in an air strike on two vehicles in Marib province, an Al-Qaeda stronghold in eastern Yemen, early on Friday.

One tribal source said that the plane that carried out the strike was likely to be American, adding that US aircraft had been patrolling the skies over Marib for the past several days.

"US planes have been flying overhead for days now," said the tribal source would requested anonymity.

"Then this morning, at about 9:30, what appeared to be a US aircraft fired on the two cars Awlaqi and his fellow operatives are believed to have been travelling in," he said.

Another tribal source, also on the condition that he not be identified, spoke of rumours that Awlaqi had recently changed locations within Yemen.

Up until three weeks ago, he had been believed to be hiding out in the southern Shabwa province, another militant bastion.

"But then word came that Awlaqi was in fact in Marib province, a move he made sometime in the last three weeks," the source said.

The source added that Yemeni security forces have been more actively seeking Awlaqi in Marib since the speculation that he had moved location.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post said that the United States is building an array of secret new drone bases to conduct strikes against Al-Qaeda targets in Yemen and Somalia.

Yemeni authorities officially deny the use of drones against Al-Qaeda targets in Yemen, saying Washington provides only logistical support to Sanaa's fight against extremists.

Witnesses and residents of the southern province of Abyan, where the government is fighting an ongoing battle against Al-Qaeda-linked militants, regularly charge that American drones are carrying out air strikes there.

Friday's announcement was the second time the defence ministry has declared Awlaqi dead.

Last December 24, the Yemeni government announced he had been killed in an air strike, but it was later revealed that Awlaqi was still alive.

In February, the US director of the National Counterterrorism Centre, Michael Leiter, told US lawmakers Awlaqi probably posed "the most significant risk" to the United States.

Awlaqi, a US-Yemeni citizen who had eluded capture for years, was believed to be a key leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

In April last year, a US official said President Barack Obama's administration had authorised the targeted killing of Awlaqi, after American intelligence agencies concluded the cleric was directly involved in anti-US plots.

US intelligence officials believe Awlaqi was linked to a US army major who allegedly shot 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.

 

 

 

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