The US military is trying to verify reports that it has killed one of the men behind a deadly attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.
A US defence official confirmed a “precision strike” had been carried out on Tuesday against Jamal al-Badawi to the east of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.
Badawi was killed in the strike, according to US and Arab media reports.
The militant, said to be an al-Qaeda commander, was on the FBI’s most wanted list over the attack on the warship.
He was convicted of plotting and taking part in the bombing in Yemen in 2004 but escaped from prison and, after handing himself in again, was allowed to walk free.
A US grand jury indicted him in 2003 for his role in the bombing, and the FBI offered a reward of up to $5m (£4m) for information leading to his arrest.
What is being said about Badawi’s fate?
Captain Bill Urban of US Central Command told the BBC the strike targeting Badawi had occurred in the Marib governorate, adding that US forces were “still assessing the results of the strike following a deliberate process to confirm his death”.
An unnamed official in the US presidential administration reportedly told CNN that all intelligence indicators showed Badawi had been killed in the strike as a result of a joint US military and intelligence operation.
He was hit while driving alone in a vehicle and no collateral damage was reported, the official added.
Al-Qaeda has taken advantage of the chaos caused by Yemen’s ongoing civil war to entrench its presence in the south and south-east of the country.
Since 2015, the country has been embroiled in fighting between forces loyal to the internationally recognised president, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, and Shia Muslim Houthi rebels.
What happened in 2000?
Seventeen US sailors were killed and at least 40 people were wounded in the attack on 12 October 2000 which happened as the destroyer was refuelling.
Two Yemeni suicide bombers rammed the ship in a small boat packed with up to 225kg (500lb) of high explosives, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the warship.
The attack’s alleged planner, Saudi-born Abd al-Nashiri, is being held in US custody at Guantanamo Bay and could face the death penalty.