There’s a report of a U.S. airstrike in Yemen’s restive southern governorate of Abyan that seems to have targeted Fahd al Quso, a Yemeni al Qaeda operative on the FBI’s most wanted list. In any case, Quso survived the strike. He was traveling along a coastal road between Shaqra and Zinjibar, Abyan’s capital. Only an hour before, an airstrike hit a police station to the north where al Qaeda-linked militants were meeting, killing at least six militants. Al Qaeda has made significant gains in south Yemen over the past few months, raising concerns that all of south Yemen could fall under al Qaeda’s control.
Al Qaeda-linked militants calling themselves Ansar al Sharia have pushed westward out of traditional strongholds in Yemen. Al Qaeda’s advances in Abyan threaten to continue on toward Aden, the former capital of south Yemen. Quso, along with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leaders Nasser al Wahayshi and Qasim al Raymi, was reported to be in Abyan at the end of June. Previously, Quso was believed to be in hiding in neighboring Shabwah governorate. Quso, who helped organize al Qaeda’s October 2000 attack on the USS Cole and in 2009 met with Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to discuss the plot the workings of the bomb, could connect the al Qaeda-linked militants consolidating control of Abyan to AQAP.
Yemen’s unrest has opened up some space for targeted strikes against al Qaeda militants. Targeted strikes, a hit-or-miss tactic, will not alone defeat al Qaeda in Yemen.