SANA, Yemen — An airstrike killed al-Qaida's No. 2 leader in Yemen along with six others on Monday, U.S. and Yemeni officials said.
Saeed al-Shihri, a Saudi national who fought in Afghanistan and spent six years in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, was killed by a missile after leaving a house in the southern province of Hadramawt, according to Yemeni military officials. They said the missile was believed to have been fired by a U.S. unmanned drone.
Two U.S. officials confirmed al-Shihri's death but could not confirm U.S. involvement in the airstrike. The United States doesn't often comment on such attacks. Officials spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information to the media.
After leaving Guantanamo in 2007, al-Shihri went through Saudi Arabia's famous "rehabilitation" institutes, an indoctrination program designed to replace what authorities in Saudi Arabia see as militant ideology with religious moderation. But he headed south to Yemen upon release and became deputy to Nasser al-Wahishi, the leader of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Wahishi is a Yemeni who once served as Osama bin Laden's personal aide in Afghanistan.
Al-Qaida in Yemen has been linked to several attempted attacks on U.S. targets, including the foiled Christmas Day 2009 bombing of an airliner and explosives-laden parcels intercepted aboard cargo flights last year.