Militant Tied To USS Cole Bombing Dead

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Militant Tied To USS Cole Bombing Dead

Postby General Mung Beans » 2012-05-06 07:40pm

Militant Tied to U.S.S. Cole Bombing Said to Be Killed
Published: May 6, 2012

WASHINGTON — A senior Qaeda militant in Yemen linked to the deadly bombing of an American warship there in 2000 was killed in an airstrike on Sunday, the Yemeni government said, in the latest sign of an escalating American campaign to counter the terrorist threat there.

Yemeni authorities said the militant, Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, 37, who has been on the F.B.I.’s Most Wanted list in connection with the bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole that killed 17 sailors in October 2000, died in the strike in Shabwa Province in one of the rugged tribal areas controlled by insurgents.

The Yemen Embassy here in Washington described him as “a leading figure in the terrorist organization Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” using the affiliate’s full name.

Yet even as Yemeni authorities were announcing Mr. Quso’s death, American officials said they needed a few days to confirm the strike and any casualties. Because so many of Al Qaeda’s senior leaders in Pakistan have been killed or captured, including Osama bin Laden, the Qaeda affiliate in Yemen is considered by American counterterrorism specialists as the one posing the most immediate threat to the United States.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula “continues to be Al Qaeda’s most active affiliate, and it continues to seek the opportunity to strike our homeland,” John O. Brennan, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, said in a speech last week. “We therefore continue to support the government of Yemen in its efforts against AQAP, which is being forced to fight for the territory it needs to plan attacks beyond Yemen.”

If confirmed, the death of Mr. Quso would eliminate not only one of the organization’s most visible spokesmen but also one of Al Qaeda’s most important symbolic targets because the United States has hunted him for so long. The State Department had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture or conviction.

The airstrike on Sunday also underscored the increasing cooperation in counterterrorism operations between the United States and the new government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who succeeded Ali Abdullah Saleh in February.

“President Hadi is not only making promises, but delivering on them,” said Mohammed Albasha, the Yemeni embassy’s spokesman, after Mr. Quso’s death was announced by the Yemeni government.

Before the strike, the C.I.A. and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command were known to have carried out at least 29 air and missile strikes inside Yemen since December 2009, according to the Long War Journal, a Web site that tracks drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Nearly half of those strikes in Yemen have been in the last two months, the Web site said.

In the last month alone, the White House gave the C.I.A. and the military broader authority to carry out drone strikes in Yemen. The policy shift allows strikes against militants who may be plotting attacks against the United States but whose identities might not be fully known, an authority that already exists in Pakistan. Previously, the United States focused on a list of known leaders of the Qaeda affiliate in Yemen.

In yet another indication of the United States’ concern, two senior military officials said that the Pentagon was dispatching dozens of military trainers to Yemen, resuming a training program for the country’s counterterrorism forces that was suspended last year when many troops abandoned their posts or were summoned to Sana, the capital, to help support the tottering Saleh government.

The United States launched a manhunt for Mr. Quso after he was indicted in the Southern District of New York for his role in the October 12, 2000, bombing of the Cole. American authorities said Mr. Quso planned to videotape the bombing of the Cole from a hill above the harbor of Aden and to use the tape as a recruiting tool for other potential terrorists. It was not clear whether such a tape was made.

Mr. Quso, who escaped from a jail in Yemen in 2003, was trained in terrorist camps in Afghanistan. “He’s certainly a significant figure, but he’s not at the very top of Al Qaeda in Yemen,” Gregory Johnsen, a Princeton scholar who closely tracks militants in Yemen, said in a telephone interview.

A spokesman for a Qaeda-linked group in Yemen’s south, Ansar al-Sharia, confirmed Mr. Quso’s death in a phone interview, and said that an American drone carried out the strike. The spokesman, who goes by the name Abu Hajer, said that one other man was killed along with Mr. Quso in the attack. Reuters reported that the two men were traveling by car when they died.

Militants from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula started to use the name Ansar al-Sharia last year when the group began to take over territory in Yemen’s south while the government was preoccupied with a political crisis in Sana. The breadth of the connection between Ansar al-Sharia and the main Al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan is disputed. Ansar al-Sharia has also seemed to take advantage of local grievances in its fight against the central government.

Despite the death last September of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric and Qaeda leader killed in a drone strike in Yemen, the extremists have gained increasing power, battling Yemeni security forces throughout the south, and increasing United States concerns that another plot from Yemen could be hatched.

The Qaeda affiliate in Yemen was responsible for an attempt to blow up a commercial jetliner over Detroit on December 25, 2009, as well as a plan to blow up American cargo planes with printer cartridges packed with explosives.

In a recent public speech, President Hadi spoke more severely against the terrorist organization. “The real battle against the terrorist Al Qaeda organization has yet to begin and will not end until we have eradicated their presence in every district, village and position,” he said.
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Re: Militant Tied To USS Cole Bombing Dead

Postby Darksider » 2012-05-07 09:06am

Nice to see we actually killed someone who deserves it for once.
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Re: Militant Tied To USS Cole Bombing Dead

Postby Steel » 2012-05-07 07:19pm

Just statistically we should expect a good 10% of those involved in an operation from 12 years ago be dead from natural causes by now anyway.

Have efforts to track people down significantly affected their life expectancies?
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Re: Militant Tied To USS Cole Bombing Dead

Postby MKSheppard » 2012-05-08 10:15pm

It turns out that his last work involved the recent airliner bomb plot we broke up. :mrgreen:
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Re: Militant Tied To USS Cole Bombing Dead

Postby Gandalf » 2012-05-08 11:23pm

Darksider wrote:Nice to see we actually killed someone who deserves it for once.

Statistically, if you cast a wide enough net you're bound to catch a few fish.
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Re: Militant Tied To USS Cole Bombing Dead

Postby FSTargetDrone » 2012-05-09 01:56am

MKSheppard wrote:It turns out that his last work involved the recent airliner bomb plot we broke up. :mrgreen:

Perhaps, but in a somewhat surprising way?

May 8, 2012

Bomber in Plot on U.S. Airliner Is Said to Be a Double Agent


WASHINGTON — The suicide bomber dispatched by the Yemen branch of Al Qaeda last month to blow up a United States-bound airliner was actually an intelligence agent for Saudi Arabia who infiltrated the terrorist group and volunteered for the mission, American and foreign officials said Tuesday.

In an extraordinary intelligence coup, the double agent left Yemen last month, traveling by way of the United Arab Emirates, and delivered both the innovative bomb designed for his aviation attack and inside information on the group’s leaders, locations, methods and plans to the Central Intelligence Agency, Saudi intelligence and allied foreign intelligence agencies.

Officials said the agent, whose identity they would not disclose, works for the Saudi intelligence service, which has cooperated closely with the C.I.A. for several years against the terrorist group in Yemen. He operated in Yemen with the full knowledge of the C.I.A. but not under its direct supervision, the officials said.

After spending weeks at the center of Al Qaeda’s most dangerous affiliate, the intelligence agent provided critical information that permitted the C.I.A. to direct the drone strike on Sunday that killed Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, the group’s external operations director and a suspect in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, an American destroyer, in Yemen in 2000.

He also handed over the bomb, designed by the group’s top explosives expert to be undetectable at airport security checks, to the F.B.I., which is analyzing its properties at its laboratory at Quantico, Va. The agent is now safe in Saudi Arabia, officials said. The bombing plot was kept secret for weeks by the C.I.A. and other agencies because they feared retaliation against the agent and his family — not, as some commentators have suggested, because the Obama administration wanted to schedule an announcement of the foiled plot, American officials said.

Officials said Tuesday night that the risk to the agent and his relatives had now been “mitigated,” evidently by moving both him and his family to safe locations.

But American intelligence officials were angry about the disclosure of the Qaeda plot, first reported Monday by The Associated Press, which had held the story for several days at the request of the C.I.A. They feared the leak would discourage foreign intelligence services from cooperating with the United States on risky missions in the future, said Representative Peter T. King, a New York Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

“We are talking about compromising methods and sources and causing our partners to be leery about working with us,” said Mr. King, who spoke with reporters about the plot on Monday night and Tuesday after he was briefed by counterterrorism officials. Mr. King, who called the bomb plot “one of the most tightly held operations I’ve seen in my years in the House,” said he was told that government officials planned to investigate the source of the original leak. The C.I.A. declined to comment.

Intelligence officials believe that the explosive is the latest effort of the group’s skilled bomb maker, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri. Mr. Asiri is also believed to have designed the explosives used in the failed bombing attempt on an airliner over Detroit on Dec. 25, 2009, and packed into printer cartridges and placed on cargo planes in October 2010.

A senior American official said the new device was sewn into “custom-fit” underwear and would have been very hard to detect even in a careful pat-down. Unlike the device used in the unsuccessful 2009 attack, this bomb could be detonated in two ways, in case one failed, the official said.

The main charge was a high-grade military explosive that “undoubtedly would have brought down an aircraft,” the official said.

Forensic experts at the F.B.I.’s bomb laboratory are assessing whether the bomb could have evaded screening machines and security measures revamped after the failed 2009 plot. One American official said the bureau’s initial analysis indicated that if updated security protocols designed to detect a wider range of possible threats were properly conducted, the measures “most likely would have detected” the device.

On Tuesday, the Transportation Security Administration repeated a security message previously sent to airlines and foreign governments. The security guidance notes that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula still intends to attack the United States, probably using commercial aviation, and warns T.S.A. agents to look out for explosives in cargo, concealed in clothing or surgically implanted, officials said.

Over the past eight months, American counterterrorism officials have monitored with growing alarm a rising number of electronic intercepts and tips from informants suggesting that Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen has been ramping up plots to attack the United States.

“There was increasing concern about the chatter, more and more intelligence” that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula “was moving with renewed energy to carry out some kind of attack against homeland, using airliners and concealed explosives,” said one senior administration official. Working with foreign allies, the Obama administration quietly tightened airport security.

The ominous signs followed months of political chaos in Yemen during which the Qaeda branch and its militant allies seized effective control over large areas of the country, giving the terrorist group a broader base from which to plot attacks against both the Yemeni government and the United States.

Senior American counterterrorism and military officials have expressed concern that Al Qaeda’s growing number of training camps, including small compounds, have churned out dozens of new fighters who, in turn, help expand the area under the insurgents’ control. Officials fear that the camps could also train Qaeda operatives for external operations against targets in Europe and the United States.

“Certainly when they hold terrain, it makes training more safe and secure than on disputed terrain; therefore, more and better training,” said one senior American military official.

The Yemeni government’s control over the hinterlands southeast of the capital, Sana, has always been tenuous, but over the past year it has receded almost entirely. With the authorities focused on political turmoil in the capital, many soldiers fled their posts, and jihadists began asserting control.

For more than a year the town of Jaar — along with several smaller settlements — has been controlled by militants who operate under the banner Ansar al-Sharia, which is variously described as a wing of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch or as an allied group.

One prominent tribal mediator from Shabwa Province, reached Tuesday by phone, said Ansar al-Sharia controlled all the checkpoints on Yemen’s southern coast between Aden and Balhaf, and as far north as Ataq. On Monday, militants attacked several army bases and outposts in the south, killing 20 soldiers and capturing 25, The Associated Press reported. Local tribal figures described the attacks as revenge for the killing of Mr. Quso on Sunday.

Control in the south often appears to be shared between militants, local tribes and members of the southern independence movement, which is largely secular. But Qaeda militants and their allies appear to operate freely even in areas they do not fully control, possibly including Aden, the south’s major city. Aden has become a bastion of open opposition to the government, with the flag of the independence movement — once rigidly banned — now flying from houses across the city.

Robert F. Worth and Michael S. Schmidt contributed reporting.

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Re: Militant Tied To USS Cole Bombing Dead

Postby Pelranius » 2012-05-09 05:28pm

Reminds me of the Don Cheadle film, Traitor.

Apparently the IC isn't happy that someone leaked the info about the mole.
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Re: Militant Tied To USS Cole Bombing Dead

Postby Rogue 9 » 2012-05-09 05:34pm

Pelranius wrote:Reminds me of the Don Cheadle film, Traitor.

Apparently the IC isn't happy that someone leaked the info about the mole.

Though when their bomber disappeared and their leaders started biting the big one immediately, they'd probably have figured it out.
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