A U.S. drone targeted American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen but missed, Yemeni and U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal Friday, a day after the attack.
Al-Awlaki is suspected of orchestrating terrorist attacks on the U.S.
Media reports have said he is a possible successor to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, killed Monday by U.S. Navy SEALs at his Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound.
CBS News and The Wall Street Journal, citing Yemeni and U.S. officials, said al-Awlaki was not hit when a missile was fired at a car in southern Yemen, killing two brothers believed to be al-Qaida militants.
"We were hoping it was him," a U.S. official told CBS News.
Al-Awlaki is believed to be behind last year's attempt to down cargo jets carrying bomb-laden toner cartridges. The attack by Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, led by al-Awlaki, failed after Saudi intelligence provided the tracking numbers for the parcels, sent via United Parcel Service and FedEx.
The group also is said to have inspired attacks by Muslims inside the United States — including the Fort Hood, Texas, shootings in which an Army psychiatrist is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32.
With bin Laden's death, some officials say al-Awlaki and his group represent the gravest threat to the U.S.
White House and Pentagon officials declined to comment on any strikes in Yemen, the Journal said.
The attempt to kill al-Awlaki was the first known U.S. military strike inside Yemen since May 2010, when U.S. missiles mistakenly killed one of Yemen President Abdullah Ali Saleh's envoys and others, the Journal said.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, is estimated to number about 300 fighters with strongholds in remote mountain regions in the provinces of Shabwa, Abyan, Jouf and Marib. It is thought to be behind numerous attacks on government targets.