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ANWAR AL-AWLAKI PRESUMABLY KILLED IN YEMEN

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At least 30 suspected Al Qaeda militants, including, presumably, Anwar al-Awlaki, have been killed by an air strike in a remote mountainous area of Yemen, said security officials, on Thursday 12/24/2009. Anwar al-Awlaki is linked to Maj. Malik Hasan and to the 6 American arrested in Pakistan on 12/07/2009 (see – Sargodha Arrests)

An unnamed official told reporters the strike took place as dozens of militants gathered in Shabwa province, 650 km east of the capital, Sanaa.  Two senior Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula commanders could be among the dead, he said. The two were identified by security sources as Saad al-Fathani and Mohammad Ahmed Saleh al-Oumir, were among those killed.

Mohammad Ahmed Saleh al-Oumir is thought to have been the man who spoke at a rally in Abyane, a rare public appearance by an Al Qaeda  leader, footage of which was obtained by Al Jazeera Arabic TV Channel 12/21/2009 (see – Abyan 12.21.09).

“We are still unsure if two of the top leaders have been killed or not,” Reuters news agency quoted him as saying “, reffering to the Saudi Al Qaeda member Nasser al-Wehaishi and Said abu Sufyan al-Shihri, who appeared later, on 02/08/2010, in an audio massage (see – Shihri Audio 02.08.10).

Another official told AFP that the suspected militants had been meeting to plan terror attacks in Yemen, in retaliation for Yemeni military air strikes carried out last week, in which Yemeni officials said they had killed 34 suspected al-Qaeda militants and arrested 17 in operations in Abyan province in the south and in Arhab, north of Sanaa (see – Abyan 12.17.09).

Officials said the militants had allegedly been planning multiple suicide attacks, with eight of them preparing explosive vests at the time of the raids. Analysts say Yemen has long been an ideal base for jihadists.

With its rugged mountains and traditionally weak central authority, it is terrain well suited to militant groups looking for hiding places and training camps.

* Anwar al-Awlaki’s brother in Yemen claimed, on Friday 12/25/2009, he has “guarantees” Anwar al-Awlaki was not killed in the attack and is still alive. The Yemeni authorities failed, over a week after the attack, to prove any of the alleged Al Qaeda senior commanders was, indeed, killed in the airstrike. USA confirmed, eventually, that Anwar Al-Awlaki survived the attack unharmed.

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