SANAA, Yemen (CNN) — A senior operative of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula wanted for his role in the USS Cole bombing was killed by an airstrike in Yemen on Sunday, Yemeni officials said.
Fahd al Quso, 37, was killed while riding in a vehicle in the Rafdh district in Shabwa province, according to the officials.
Al Qaeda members confirmed the death in text messages to local media, saying al Quso died along with a companion identified as Fahd Lakdum.
Al Quso was indicted by a federal grand jury in New York in 2003 on 50 counts of terrorism offenses for his role in the October 12, 2000, bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen. The bombing killed 17 U.S. sailors.
In addition to being one of the most-wanted terrorists in Yemen, the FBI had offered a $5 million reward for any information leading to al Quso’s capture.
He had been at large since escaping in April 2003 with eight others from a Yemeni prison, where they had been held on suspicion of involvement in the Cole bombing.
Earlier Sunday, two security officials told CNN that four Yemeni airstrikes killed six suspected al Qaeda militants and wounded two others in Lawder district of Abyan province.
The Defense Ministry said that 10 other suspected militants had been killed since Saturday morning in the same province’s Zinjibar district.
The ministry said that the strikes were targeting two locations: a militant hideout and a training site.
Nine troops were wounded in Abyan’s capital of Zinjibar when a mortar exploded, a senior Defense Ministry official told CNN. Two of the wounded were in critical condition, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the news media.
Local security officials said that the offensive has been the fiercest since last year, when the country began its anti-terrorism efforts.
More than 240 militants have been killed over the last month in Abyan alone, the security officials said.
“Al-Qaeda has been greatly weakened over the last two months and we expect them to evacuate strategic positions over the next two weeks,” a senior official in Abyan who is not authorized to speak to the news media told CNN on condition of anonymity.
He said that 24 soldiers were killed during the same period of time.
Yemeni government military planes roam the skies of Abyan throughout the day, residents said.
“We wake up in the morning and see bodies laying on roads or near our farms. Most of the attacks take place late at night or early morning,” said Yasser al-Numairi, a resident of Abyan.
The violence comes as newly elected President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi has vowed to increase the pressure on al Qaeda until they are eradicated from every Yemeni village.
“Our fight against al Qaeda will continue until the displaced citizens can return safely to their homes and terrorist operatives surrender and lay their arms,” Hadi said Saturday night in a speech broadcast on Yemen Television.
The Interior Ministry said on Sunday that 14 suspected al-Qaeda militants were arrested in April and that it will continue hunting down terrorists nationwide.
Al Qaeda is seeking to take advantage of the political unrest in Yemen to expand into new areas of southern Yemen.
TM & © 2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.