Confusion over al-Qaeda airstrike

Once again, there are conflicting reports about the latestairstrike in Yemen directed against al-Qaeda.

Yemeni officials say at least 30 suspected militants were killed when they gathered for a meeting at Rafadh in Shabwa province yesterday.

The Yemen Observer says the strike demolished the home of Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been linked to the US army officer accused of the Fort Hood shootings in Texas.

Two other prominent figures may have been present: Nasser al-Wahaishi, described as al-Qaeda's regional leader, and Said Ali al-Shihri, a Saudi national who is said to be his deputy.

It is unclear whether any of these were among the dead, though The National newspaper names four other militants who were killed. The paper also quotes local sources as saying only seven people were killed and two wounded, rather than the 30-plus claimed by the Yemeni government.

The Yemen Observer has a fairly detailed report of those killed in recent operations against al-Qaeda. Separately, the Yemen Observer also reports a statement to parliament on Wednesday by Rashad al-Alimi, the deputy prime minister reponsible for security. Alimi expressed regret at civilian casualties but blamed al-Qaeda, saying two of its members had brought their families with them.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 25 December 2009.