Reports: Airstrike in Yemen May Have Targeted Cleric Linked to Fort Hood Shootings

BY Talea Miller  December 24, 2009 at 10:21 AM EST

Yemeni forces backed by U.S. intelligence attacked alleged al-Qaida hide-outs in eastern Yemen early Thursday, killing more than 30 militants, Yemeni security officials have told news organizations. Reports are surfacing that a Muslim cleric linked to the accused Fort Hood gunman, may have been among those targeted in the strike.

Yemen’s Supreme Security Committee said the airstrikes targeted sites that are believed to have housed leadership level al-Qaida meetings convened to organize terrorist attacks, reported the Associated Press.

According to a press statement issued Thursday by the Yemeni embassy in Washington, D.C.: “Preliminary reports suggest that the strike targeted scores of Yemeni and foreign Al-Qaida operatives. Nasser Al-Wuhayshi, the regional Al-Qaeda leader and his deputy, Saeed Al-Shihri, alongside Anwar Al-Awlaki were presumed to be at the site.”

[Anwar al-Awlaki](http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/religion/july-dec09/alawlaki_11-11.html) is the Yemeni-American preacher who is believed to have communicated with Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, the gunman suspected of killing 13 people at a Texas Army base in November. According to the [Washington Post](http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/24/AR2009122400536.html?hpid=topnews), accounts indicate that al-Awlaki may have been targeted in the strike, although some security officials and local news reports continue to dispute whether Al-Awlaki or his house were involved in the Thursday raid. Sources told [ABC news ](http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/12/sources-air-strike-in-yemen-may-have-killed-imam-who-inspired-fort-hood-shooter-two-top-al-qaeda-officials.html) that al-Awlaki may have been killed in the attack, along with two top al-Qaida figures. [Reuters also reports](http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BN0S220091224) that al-Awlaki may have been killed, although the reports have not yet been officially confirmed. “Anwar al-Awlaki is suspected to be dead,” an official told Reuters of the cleric who was on the run in Yemen, where he was on the government’s most-wanted list of terrorist suspects. Thursday’s was the second such assault in the past week. Yemen’s deputy defense minister, Rashad al-Alaimy, told parliament that that the strikes were carried out “using intelligence aid from Saudi Arabia and the United States of America in our fight against terrorism.” A close relative of Awlaki’s disputes the claims of his death and told the Post he did not believe the preacher was still living in that location. The family has also denied he has ties to al-Qaida. Al-Awlaki was quoted in an interview with Al Jazeera.net Wednesday about discussions he had with Hasan. “He was asking about killing American soldiers and officers. [He asked] whether this is a religiously legitimate act or not,” he told [Aljazeera.net ](http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/12/23/world/main6016990.shtml), but argued he had no direct role in Hasan’s actions. “True, I may have a role in his intellectual direction, but nothing beyond that, and I am not trying to absolve myself of what he did because I do not support it. No, but because I wish I had had the honor of having a bigger role in what happened than the role I really had,” he said. Al-Awlaki , who was born in the U.S., said the two first became acquainted when Al-Awlaki served as the imam of a mosque in Falls Church, Va.