US was targeting top al Qaeda leader in errant drone strike

The al Qaeda mastermind of a Yemeni terror plot that forced Washington to shutter most of its diplomatic outposts in the Mideast and Africa was the target of an errant U.S. drone strike last week that ended with the death of 13 civilians. 

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U.S. and Yemeni officials had reportedly received intelligence that al Qaeda commander Shawqi Ali Ahmad al-Badani was traveling in a convoy through al-Bayda province in central Yemen, the officials told The Associated Press. 

The officials claim al-Badani and nearly a dozen suspected members of al Qaeda's Yemeni cell, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), were killed in the Dec. 12 drone strike. 

The AQAP chieftain was behind a terror plot that forced the State Department to close 19 embassies across the Middle East and Africa in August, the officials told the AP. 

But recent reports, based on eyewitness accounts, claim the drone strike targeted a civilian convoy en route to a wedding party in al-Bayda. 

Roughly 10 civilians were killed immediately in the strike, while 10 other members of the group were injured during the attack. 

Of those 10 Yemeni civilians hurt in the attack, five later died from their injuries after being evacuated to a nearby hospital, according to reports. 

Previous American-led drone strikes in Yemen have often targeted and taken out individual vehicles or small groups of vehicles suspected of ferrying al Qaeda fighters across the country. 

The al-Bayda strike took place two days after U.S. unmanned aircraft killed three suspected members of al Qaeda's Yemeni cell traveling in the volatile Hadramawt province in southern Yemen, a known stronghold for the al Qaeda cell. 

More than 80 percent of all U.S. armed drone strikes are targeted in Pakistan and Yemen.

The Obama administration claims the controversial counterterrorism tactic has been invaluable to decimating senior leaders within al Qaeda and other Islamic militant groups in those regions.