Unmanned, Unafraid, and Underscoped
Success in Four Wars with the Predator
The only problem with the Predator is that the Air Force didn't buy enough of them
On 4 November 2002, a black Toyota Land Cruiser departed a farm near al Naqaa, Yemen, and headed down a road toward the city of Marib, about 125 miles east of the capital city of Sanaa. The departure was noted by a Yemeni undercover agent, who relayed the information to operatives of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA operatives quickly informed the control crew of an unmanned aircraft patrolling the area. Near a military checkpoint some distance up the road, the car veered off into the desert. Without warning, a guided missile launched from the still-undetected aircraft ripped into the vehicle. The Land Cruiser was completely blown apart, the remnants were thoroughly scorched, and the six men riding inside were left quite dead.
One of those killed, and main target of the strike, was Qaed Salim Sinyan al Harethi, whose nom de guerre was Abu Ali. A former security guard for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, he was thought to have played a leading role in the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000, and possibly in the attack on the French oil tanker Limburg in October 2002. One of the dozen or so most wanted men in the world, Abu Ali had been the target of a massive manhunt. Though harbored by friendly tribesman, he had been tracked partly through his overuse of a satellite telephone. The ancestral home of the bin Laden clan, Yemen was a center of al Qaeda activity after the loss of bases in Afghanistan in late 2001. An attempt to capture al Harethi in December 2001 had left eighteen Yemeni soldiers and three villagers dead. Afterwards, the Yemeni government asked for assistance from the Pentagon, and fifty U.S. commandos were sent to the country to train Yemeni troops. The strike was said to have been personally authorized well in advance by U.S. president George W. Bush and Yemeni president Ali Abdallah Saleh.2