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US airstrikes in Yemen kill man suspected of connection to USS Cole bombing

Updated at 11:17 a.m. ET: Yemeni security and military officials revised the number of suspected militants killed in a U.S. airstrike Tuesday down to four people killed, and said one of the victims was a man suspected of involvement in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.

Tribal officials in the southern Abyan province said the strike hit the militants late Monday as they were holding an important meeting at the school. Yemeni security officials had originally put the death toll at 15 people but later lowered that figure. They also said 12 militants were wounded in the strikes.

They said one of the suspected militants killed was named Abdel-Monem al-Fathani who was involved in the bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors and injured 39 others. The attack on the U.S. destroyer occurred while it was in the Yemeni port of Aden for refueling.


A Western official in Washington confirmed the U.S. carried out a strike against suspected leaders from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, saying initial indications were that five people were killed. The official did not say where the strike occurred or specify whether it was carried out by a drone or a warplane.

Updated at 9:15 a.m. ET: U.S. airstrikes targeting leaders from Yemen's active al-Qaida branch killed 15 suspected militants, Yemeni officials said on Tuesday.

Yemeni security and military officials said missiles struck a school and a car in Abyan province in an area between Lauder and Mood where the militants were believed to be hiding.

NBC News also reported Tuesday that members of a Yemeni tribe had kidnapped six United Nations aid workers. They were demanding money and the release of one of their members from jail.

According to NBC, the U.N. aid workers include a German, French, Colombian, Iraqi and Lebanese.

A Western official in Washington confirmed the U.S. carried out a strike against suspected leaders from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, but said initial indications were that five people were killed. The official did not say where the strike occurred or specify whether it was carried out by a drone or a warplane.

All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.

Also Tuesday, Yemen's information minister, Ali al-Amrani, escaped an assassination attempt in the capital Sanaa, an aide said.

Unidentified assailants opened fire on the minister's car after the weekly cabinet meeting and then fled, Amrani's secretary, Abdel-Basset al-Qaedi, said.

The minister was not hurt, he said.

Updated at 2:33 a.m. ET: At least 11 people, including several alleged local al-Qaida leaders, were killed in an overnight airstrike in southern Yemen, local residents said Tuesday.

They said an unidentified drone attacked two vehicles east of the city of Lauder in Abyan province in southern Yemen.

A tribal leader said at least four of those killed were local al-Qaida leaders. Residents said no civilians were hurt in the airstrike.

The United States has used drones repeatedly to attack al-Qaida militants in Yemen. Last September, a U.S. drone killed U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, described by U.S. officials as "chief of external operations" for al-Qaida in Yemen.

Al-Qaida has exploited unrest and protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh to strengthen its hold on remote areas in southern Yemen in recent months.

An opposition-led government has been set up in Yemen after Saleh agreed in November to transfer authority to his deputy ahead of presidential elections in February.

But protests have continued and activists are pressing on with demands that Saleh be tried for alleged killings of demonstrators and that the government is purged of members of his family.

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Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.