Sources: U.S. kills al Qaeda chief

Scorched earth and rubble mark the spot where the car blew up.

Mon., Nov. 4, 2002     4:44 PM EST 

SANAA, Yemen (CNN) -- The United States launched a missile at a car in Yemen early Monday killing six suspected al Qaeda members, including the terrorist organization's chief in that country who was wanted for the bombing of the USS Cole, sources told CNN.

It was the first direct military strike against Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network outside Afghanistan since the U.S.-led war on terrorism was launched in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.

Few details were released about the attack or how the missile was launched. Pentagon and U.S. intelligence officials refused to discuss the report. 

The blast happened in the oil-rich northern province of Marib, about 105 miles (170 kilometers) east of the capital, Sanaa.

Sources identified one of the dead as Abu Ali, also known as Qaed Senyan al-Harthi, who was believed to have played a major role in the October 2000 attack on the destroyer Cole that killed 17 sailors.

Ali once served as one of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's senior bodyguards and was the group's top leader in Yemen.

Walid Al-Saqqaf, managing editor of the Yemen Times, told CNN that Ali was identified as the one in the vehicle by a mark on his leg, which was blown off in the blast and was found near the scene.

He said Ali, who has been on the run and was believed to be harbored by tribesmen, has been the source of a massive hunt by security forces in Yemen. An attempt to capture him earlier late last year failed. That botched attempt left more than a dozen security forces dead.

About 50 U.S. Special Forces have been in Yemen training Yemeni security forces. There was no immediate indication they took part in this strike.

While not confirming the report, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke of Ali at the Pentagon briefing Monday when questioned about the attack. "It would be a very good thing if he were out of business," he said.