Al Qaeda bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri was apparently not killed in the drone strike in Yemen that killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, say both Yemeni and U.S. officials, despite initial reports that he may have died with the two al Qaeda leaders.
A senior U.S. official told ABC News that while it was initially believed, based on Yemeni sources, that al-Asiri was among those killed by Hellfire missiles, they now know it was not him. Yemeni officials have also now told ABC News that al-Asiri was not killed in the strike.
Al-Asiri, a 29-year-old Saudi, is believed to have constructed both the "underwear" bomb used in the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas 2009 and the bombs in last year's printer bomb plot.
His fingerprint was found on the bomb allegedly packed into the underwear of Umar Abdulmutallab, accused of trying to bring down Northwest 253 over Detroit.
The two printer bombs discovered last November included toner cartridges packed with explosives, and circuitry taken from cellphones. The bombs were shipped via UPS and FedEx to the United States from Yemen, but were intercepted en route in Dubai and Britain.
Awlaki Killed in CIA Drone Strike
The chief target of Friday's drone strike, radical American-born cleric Awlaki, was a major al Qaeda figure who U.S. officials say inspired numerous terror plots against the United States.
A senior U.S. official told ABC News the United States had been tracking the high-profile jihadist for some time and had just been waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
President Obama said in an announcement Friday that al-Awlaki's death was a "major blow" to al Qaeda's most operational affiliate, the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and that the successful operation against him was a tribute to the intelligence community.
In 2010, al-Awlaki was declared a "specially designated global terrorist" and became the first U.S. citizen ever to be placed on a White House-approved list for targeted killing.
He nearly met his fate shortly after Navy SEALs killed al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in early May, when a drone strike hit the convoy in which he was traveling but barely missed him.
Earlier this year, America's chief counter-terrorism official Michael Leiter called him and AQAP "probably the most significant risk to the U.S. homeland."