Al Qaeda Leader Linked to USS Cole Attack Killed in Airstrike in Yemen

The government of Yemen says an airstrike has killed a top al Qaeda leader who was on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list because of his role in the attack on the USS Cole .  The attack on the U.S. Navy destroyer in October, 2000 killed 17 American sailors and injured 39.

The Embassy of Yemen in Washington issued a press release Sunday saying Fahd al Quso, 37,  was killed in an "airstrike" in Rafth, in the southern province of Shabwa.

The release described him as "a leading figure in the terrorist organization: al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)." It also said "Al Quso was one of Yemen's most wanted terrorist(s). He was also indicted for his role in the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden."

A U. S. official described al Quso to ABC News as a "senior terrorist operative" of AQAP who was "deeply involved in ongoing terrorist plotting against Yemeni and U.S. interests at the time of his death."   He also described him as being "involved in numerous attacks over many years that murdered Americans as well as Yemeni men, women, and children."

There was no mention of who conducted the airstrike, but in the past a non-attribution airstrike usually implies that it was conducted by the either the CIA or the U.S. military.   The Associated Press cites U.S. officials as saying the strike was conducted by the CIA.

The CIA and the U.S. military's Joint Special Operations Command both conduct Predator drone strikes in Yemen targeting AQAP operatives.  U.S. officials say the majority of the recent strikes have been conducted by the CIA.

Two weeks ago another top AQAP operative was killed by a CIA drone strike.

The U.S. has been conducting Predator drone operations in Yemen since at least 2009.   The website The Long War Journal, which keeps track of American drone strikes inside Yemen says there have been 24 strikes since May 2011.

Not only was Al-Quso on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist list, but the State Department's Rewards for Justice program offered a "$5 million reward for information leading directly to the apprehension or conviction, in any country, of Fahd Mohammed Ahmed Al-Quso."

Al-Quso had served prison time in Yemen for his role in the attack on the USS Cole, but was released in 2007.