SANAA, Yemen — An airstrike killed al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader in Yemen along with five others traveling with him in one car today, senior Yemeni Defense Ministry officials reported.
If confirmed, Saeed al-Shihri’s death would be a major blow to the militant group.
The officials said the missile that killed al-Shihri, a Saudi national, was believed to have been fired by a U.S. operated drone, but that couldn’t immediately be confirmed. The U.S. doesn’t usually comment on such attacks although it has used drones in the past to go after al-Qaida members in Yemen.
Al-Shihri’s death would amount to a major breakthrough for U.S. efforts to cripple the group in Yemen, which is considered a crucial battleground with the terror network. The impoverished nation on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula is on the doorstep of Saudi Arabia and fellow oil-producing nations of the Gulf and lies on strategic sea routes leading to the Suez Canal.
Al-Qaida’s Yemen branch is seen as the world’s most active, planning and carrying out attacks against targets in and outside U.S. territory.