U.S. missile strike kills al Qaeda chief
CIA drone launched missile
SANAA, Yemen (CNN) -- In a CNN interview, a top Pentagon official called a missile strike that killed six suspected al Qaeda members in Yemen "a very successful tactical operation" and said the U.S. must "keep the pressure on" terrorists wherever they are.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told CNN's Maria Ressa "one hopes each time you get a success like that, not only to have gotten rid of somebody dangerous, but to have imposed changes in their tactics and operations and procedures."
Sources had earlier told CNN an unmanned CIA Predator drone launched a "Hellfire" missile early Monday and struck a car carrying the men, including the al Qaeda chief in that country who was wanted for the bombing of the USS Cole.
It was the first direct U.S. strike against Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network outside Afghanistan since the U.S.-led war on terrorism was launched in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.
"Sometimes when people are changing," Wolfowitz said, "they expose themselves in new ways. So we just got to keep the pressure on everywhere we are able to, and we've got to deny the sanctuaries everywhere we are able to, and we've got to put pressure on every government that is giving these people support to get out of that business."
Video from the scene showed the car blown completely apart, with most of it reduced to black ash in the desert.
Sources identified one of the dead as Abu Ali, also known as Qaed Senyan al-Harthi, a former bin Laden security guard who was believed to have played a major role in the October 2000 attack on the destroyer Cole that killed 17 sailors.
The attack took place in the oil rich Marib province in Yemen.
Walid Al-Saqqaf, managing editor of the Yemen Times, told CNN that Ali was identified as the one in the vehicle by a mark on his leg, which was blown off in the blast and found near the scene.
He said Ali, who has been on the run and was believed to be harbored by tribesmen, has been the source of a massive hunt by security forces in Yemen. An attempt to capture him late last year failed. That botched attempt left more than a dozen security forces dead.
About 50 U.S. Special Forces troops have been in the country training Yemeni security forces. There was no immediate indication they took part in this strike.
President Bush did not comment directly on the incident in Yemen during a campaign rally in Arkansas, but he did say the United States is pursuing "international killers."
"The only way to find them is to be patient and steadfast and hunt them down. And the United States of America is doing just that," Bush said.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke of Ali at the Pentagon briefing Monday when questioned about the attack.
"It would be a very good thing if he were out of business," Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld said the U.S.-Yemen relationship "has been a good one and it's ongoing." He noted that Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh visited the Pentagon and agreed to cooperate in the war on terrorism.
"As a result, we have some folks in that country that have been working with the government and helping them think through ways of doing things," Rumsfeld said.
"And it's been a good cooperation, and we've shared some information, and we think that over time it ought to be beneficial."
Rumsfeld said a number of al Qaeda members are known to be hiding in Yemen, slipping into the country by sea and through its sparsely populated border areas -- what he said are used "advantageously by terrorists."