U.S. drone strike missed Yemen Al Qaeda figure

Laura Rozen

A U.S. drone strike Thursday targeted but missed Anwar al-Awlaki, a key American-born radical with al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Wall Street Journal's Margaret Coker, Adam Entous and Julian Barnes report:

"A U.S. drone strike in Yemen Thursday was aimed at killing Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born radical cleric who is suspected of orchestrating terrorist attacks on the U.S, but the missile missed its target, according to Yemeni and U.S. officials," the Journal writes.

"With bin Laden's death, some officials believe Mr. Awlaki and his group now represents the gravest threat to the U.S."

It was the first known U.S. drone strike in Yemen since May 2010.

White House and Pentagon officials declined to comment to the paper on the reported attempt to strike al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and who has emerged as one of the leading propagandists for the al Qaeda Yemeni affiliate. Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair previously told Congress that the CIA apparently had an executive order to target al-Awlaki for assassination.

Several recent suspects in terrorist attacks targeting the United States have reportedly been inspired by the English-speaking al-Awlaki. Among them: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the wealthy, Nigerian-born London university student who was charged with attempting to blow up a Christmas Day 2009 flight to Detroit; and Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged with killing thirteen fellow soldiers in a 2009 attack on troops at Ft. Hood, Texas.