SANAA, Yemen – An airstrike killed five al-Qaida militants in the south of Yemen on Thursday, officials said, days after details emerged about a Saudi mole within the network who reportedly provided information allowing the CIA to target one of its key leaders.
There was no immediate word from Washington on whether it was behind the latest pre-dawn strike, which completely leveled a house in which the five were staying on the western outskirts of the town of Jaar.
Jaar, along with the nearby town of Zinjibar, has been held by al-Qaida militants for a year.
The identity of the five militants was not immediately known, but the officials said one of them might have been a senior member of the terror network in charge of armament.
The United States has usually used drones to strike al-Qaida in Yemen. The security officials did not specify whether it was carried out by piloted planes or drones. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The U.S. and Yemen are resuming cooperation in the fight against al-Qaida, which has taken advantage of the political turmoil in the country to capture territory and plot attacks against U.S. targets. Cooperation was suspended nearly a year ago during the popular uprising against the authoritarian regime of former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Yemen has been a source of serious concern to Washington because it was the launching pad for two foiled al-Qaida attacks on U.S. territory that were potentially disastrous: the Christmas 2009 attempt to down an American airliner over Detroit with an underwear bomb and the sending of printer cartridges packed with explosives to Chicago-area synagogues in 2010.
The Associated Press this week disclosed that the CIA thwarted a plot by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb described as an improvement on the 2009 underwear bomb because of the absence of metal which could have made it undetectable by conventional airport scanners.
The would-be bomber was actually a double-agent working for Saudi Arabia's security services. Saudi officials worked with the CIA to deliver the sophisticated new bomb directly to the U.S. government.
Before he was whisked to safety, the spy reportedly provided intelligence that helped the CIA kill al-Qaida's senior operations leader, Fahd al-Quso, who died in a drone strike last weekend.