A Saudi national known to be a key al Qaeda bomb maker was wounded during a U.S.-led drone strike in Yemen, according to a Yemeni news report.
Ibrahim al Asiri, the bomb maker, was targeted during a missile strike launched from a U.S.-operated armed drone in southern Yemen that killed two other al Qaeda terrorists, the online Yemeni news outlet Al Watan reported Sunday.
A U.S. official had no public comment but urged caution regarding claims that al Asiri was dead.
The drone attack took place in Yemen’s southernmost Lahij Governorate that borders the Gulf of Aden. Covert, U.S. military-operated drones carried out the strike. The United States operates a drone base located in southern Saudi Arabia.
According to the Al Watan report, photos of the drone strike victims showed one man whose facial features matched al Asiri, who was said to have been severely wounded.
Al Asiri is one of the most wanted terrorists and was behind at least two unsuccessful plots to blow up airliners.
Al Watan quoted eyewitnesses as saying the drone strike Saturday was carried out against a passenger car that heard the drone and sought refuge under a bridge. However, before the passengers could get out of the car, a missile struck the vehicle and destroyed it.
After seeing that the missile had not hit the passengers, the drone fired three more missiles against four people who had fled from the car.
Al Asiri is believed by U.S. officials to have been the mastermind behind the bomb concealed in the underwear of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet on the way to Detroit on Dec. 25, 2009.
Abdulmutallab was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2012.
Al Asiri also is suspected in the plot to blow up cargo planes using printer cartridges filled with plastic explosive in 2010.
Al Asiri, a chemist by training, is also believed to have trained other members of the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Saturday’s drone strike followed an unprecedented public warning by the U.S. government that terrorists were planning an attack on the United States.
More than a dozen U.S. diplomatic outposts were temporarily closed amid concerns of a terrorist attack.
No attacks have been carried out and current and former U.S. officials have said the terrorist threat may have been hyped by the Obama administration for political purposes. A White House spokeswoman dismissed that claim as “insulting.”
U.S. officials were quoted in press reports as saying the threat of a coming attack was based on an intercepted communication between al Qaeda leader Aymen al Zawahiri and the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Nasser al-Wuhaysi.
London’s Telegraph newspaper reported Saturday that Yemeni authorities have offered a reward of up to $23,000 for information on al Asiri and 24 other al Qaeda terrorists in Yemen.