Yemeni Al-Qaeda leader Fahd al-Quso, who was wanted in connection with the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, was killed in an air raid in eastern Yemen on Sunday, according to a report by AFP.
Al-Qaeda, which has strongholds in southern and eastern Yemen, confirmed Quso's death in an SMS text message sent to reporters that could not be immediately verified.
“Fahd al-Quso, who was wanted by the United States for the attack against the USS Cole, was killed tonight (Sunday) in an American raid on the Rafadh region” in the Shabwa province, tribal chief Abdel Magid bin Farid al-Awlaki told AFP.
Quso was killed when two missiles slammed near his home in Rafadh, east of Ataq, the provincial capital of Shabwa province, the tribal chief said. He added that two of the suspect's body guards were also killed in the raid.
A U.S. government official welcomed the death of the “senior terrorist operative,” saying he had been actively planning attacks against the United States and Yemen.
“Fahd al-Quso was a senior terrorist operative of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who was deeply involved in ongoing terrorist plotting against Yemeni and U.S. interests at the time of his death,” the official told AFP. “He was also involved in numerous attacks over many years that murdered Americans as well as Yemeni men, women and children.”
The October 2000 attack on the U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Cole, in Yemen's port of Aden killed 17 sailors and wounded 40 others.
Al-Qaeda had claimed responsibility for the attack, which was carried out when militants riding an explosives-laden skiff blew a 30-by-30-foot (10-by-10-meter) hole in the USS Cole.
Quso's name was on an FBI list of most wanted terrorists, the AFP report said, along with a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest.
The Yemeni embassy in Washington also confirmed the death of “one of the most wanted terrorists in Yemen.”
Quso belonged to the powerful Al-Awlak tribe of U.S.-Yemeni cleric and terror suspect Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in September.
Last year, Pentagon prosecutors declared their intention to re-file war crimes charges against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the mastermind of the deadly attack on the USS Cole.
The announcement included the original request of the military prosecution for an imposition of the death penalty al-Nashiri, the former al-Qaeda chief of operations for the Arabian Peninsula.
Nashiri was arraigned at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba in November.