BEIT AL AHMAR, Yemen — The Nov. 7 drone strike that killed alleged al Qaida-linked operative Adnan al Qadhi outside Beit al Ahmar was just one of more than 50 American airstrikes believed to have taken place in Yemen so far this year.
Unlike the usual post-strike conjecture, however, this one has unleashed a flurry of speculation about why Qadhi, a well-known figure in this town, was targeted in such a violent and anonymous way.
American counterterrorism officials have painted drone strikes as a tool of last resort, utilized only when targets represent an imminent threat and are nearly impossible to take out by other means. But people in Beit al Ahmar say it's hard to argue that Qadhi's capture would have been out of the question. He'd already been arrested, and released, before, in 2008 after an attack on the American Embassy. And Beit al Ahmar, nine miles outside Yemen's capital, Sanaa, is no isolated enclave – it's the birthplace of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and home to much of the military's leadership.