A man whom the U.S. described as a key figure in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula accidentally blew himself up, U.S. military officials told Fox News.
The officials say Nayif Al-Qahtani was "messing with a bomb" when it went off. U.S. officials had been watching him, but Fox News' sources insist the U.S. had nothing to do with his death.
Al-Qahtani was "a vibrant guy linked to ongoing operations planning, and his death will have an impact," one official told Fox News.
An Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula newsletter was the first to announce his death a week after the United States put terror sanctions on him. The newsletter did not say when it happened but said Al-Qahtani died in Yemen's Abyan province in the south of the country.
The State Department recently described al-Qahtani as "a liaison between Al Qaeda cells in Yemen and Saudi Arabia." It said he manages Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's operations in Yemen and receives financial support from abroad to launch attacks in both Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is recognized for its connection to the failed 2009 Christmas Day airline attack in Detroit. Since then, Yemen's government has increased airstrikes on the group's members within its own country using intelligence support from the United States.
Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.