SAN'A, Yemen - A U.S.-born radical cleric is alive and well after reports he may have been killed in a Yemeni air strike against suspected al-Qaeda hideouts, friends and relatives said yesterday.
The government said it targeted a meeting of high-level al-Qaeda operatives in Thursday's air strike in the remote Shabwa region in southeastern Yemen. It said at least 30 militants were killed, possibly including Anwar al-Aulaqi, a Yemeni American cleric who has been linked to Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged in last month's shooting attack at Fort Hood, Texas.
Yesterday, Aulaqi's friend Abu Bakr al-Aulaqi said he was not among those killed. The friend would not say whether the cleric had been attending the meeting.
Abu Bakr al-Aulaqi was in Shabwa and in contact with the gunmen in control of the area after the strike. He is not related to the cleric, but the two are from the same tribe and carry the same last name.
The cleric's brother, who agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity, said he also received assurances that his older sibling was alive.
Thursday's air strikes were the second in a week against al-Qaeda and were carried out with U.S. and Saudi intelligence help.
The newly aggressive Yemeni campaign reflects Washington's fears that the terror network could turn this fragmented, unstable nation into an Afghanistan-like refuge in a highly strategic location on the border with oil-rich Saudi Arabia.
Yemen's government said it struck a gathering of senior al-Qaeda figures in a remote mountain valley where they were plotting terror attacks.
The top leader of al-Qaeda's branch in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, and his deputy Said al-Shihri were also believed to be at the meeting, Yemen's Supreme Security Committee said.
But Yemeni officials still have no access to the area, which is controlled by armed gunmen and supporters of al-Qaeda, and could not confirm who was killed in the attack.
In Washington, a U.S. official who was briefed on the strike said there had been no confirmation yet of who was killed.