The US drone aircraft attack that killed two midlevel al-Qaeda militants in Yemen on Thursday was targeting the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a US-born radical known for encouraging attacks on the US, US media reported.
CBS News and the Wall Street Journal, citing Yemeni and US officials, said on Friday that Anwar al-Awlaki was not hit when a missile was fired at a car in southern Yemen on Thursday, killing two brothers believed to be al-Qaeda militants.
“We were hoping it was him,” a US official told CBS News.
The US Department of Defense declined to comment on the reports.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is estimated to number about 300 fighters with strongholds in remote mountain regions in the provinces of Shabwa, Abyan, Jouf and Marib. It is thought to be behind numerous attacks on government targets.
The group is said to have inspired attacks by Muslims inside the US — including the Fort Hood, Texas, shootings in which an Army psychiatrist is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 — and twice smuggled explosives aboard aircraft headed to the US.
Yemen’s Defense Ministry confirmed Thursday’s drone attack had killed two al-Qaeda militants, identifying them as brothers Musa’id and Abdullah Mubarak al-Daghari.
Washington considers the -Yemen-based al-Qaeda branch the world’s most active terror cell.