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Airstrike kills six al-Qaida operatives, Yemen says

SANA, Yemen — Yemeni warplanes struck outside a desert village near the border with Saudi Arabia on Friday, killing six al-Qaida operatives, including the group's top military leader in the country, security officials said.

The military chief, who escaped a government attack targeting him last month, was one of Yemen's most-wanted militants and had plotted to assassinate the U.S. ambassador.

Yemen, with the help of U.S. counterterrorism aid and training, has intensified an offensive against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which has gained global attention since it claimed responsibility for a failed effort to bomb a Detroit-bound passenger jet on Dec. 25.

It was not immediately clear if the United States was directly involved in Friday's strike in Yemen. The country's government, which depends in part on the support of powerful Islamic radicals to maintain its fragile hold on power, is deeply wary of being seen as too closely allied with Washington.

Four of those killed were on Yemen's list of most-wanted al-Qaida figures, including Qassim al-Raimi, the top military chief in the terrorist network's offshoot in Yemen. The attack took place near the village of Yatama, about 118 miles northeast of the capital, Sana.

Yemen has wrongly reported his death in the past. A written statement from the government's Supreme Security Committee said that this time it had intelligence that al-Raimi was among those in two cars that were destroyed in the airstrike on the edge of Jouf province.

Jouf's provincial governor, Hussein Hazib, confirmed six al-Qaida militants were killed in the strike but said he did not yet know their identities.

Also among the dead in Friday's strike was Ammar al-Waeli, who was accused of involvement in a July 2007 suicide bombing that killed eight Spanish tourists and two Yemenis in central Yemen.

Airstrike kills six al-Qaida operatives, Yemen says 01/15/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 15, 2010 10:20pm]
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