Sanaa: An airstrike killed al Qaeda's number 2 leader in Yemen along with five others traveling with him in one car on Tuesday, senior Yemeni Defense Ministry officials reported. If confirmed, Saeed al-Shihri's death would be a major blow to the militant group.
They said the attack killed al-Shihri, a Saudi national, as the al Qaeda in Yemen deputy left a house in the southern Hadramawt province with his five companions.
The officials say the missile was believed to have been fired by a US operated drone. The US doesn't usually comment on such attacks but has used drones in the past to go after al Qaeda members in Yemen.
The Yemeni officials were confirming a brief Defense Ministry statement sent to Yemeni reporters on their mobile phones. A senior official at the Yemeni president's office confirmed the attack, but said DNA tests have yet to establish al-Shihri's identity. The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Al Qaeda's Yemen branch is seen as the world's most active, planning and carrying out attacks against targets in and outside US territory. If confirmed, the death of al-Shihri would be a major blow to the group as it faces a major crackdown in the south.
The Yemeni military has retaken several towns that had been captured by the terror network during political unrest inspired by the Arab Spring last year.