The U.S. drone aircraft attack that killed two al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen on Thursday was targeting Anwar al-Aulaqi, the U.S.-born leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, news outlets reported Friday.
The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CBS News and other news media cited U.S. and Yemeni officials in reporting that Aulaqi was the target of a missile fired from the drone. The missile struck a car in southern Yemen, killing two brothers who were identified by Yemen’s Defense Ministry as al-Qaeda militants.
“We were hoping it was him,” a U.S. official told CBS.
The drone was operated by the Defense Department, not the CIA, which has ramped up intelligence operations in Yemen, the news outlets reported. The Pentagon declined to comment on the reports.
Washington considers al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen, the world’s most active terror cell.
Aulaqi, meanwhile, has been directly linked to attacks by Muslims inside the United States — including the Fort Hood shootings in 2009, in which an Army psychiatrist is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32, and the attempted Christmas Day bombing one month later of a Detroit-bound airliner.
The Obama administration has taken the unusual step of authorizing the CIA to kill Aulaqi, even though he is a U.S. citizen.