Back in May, when The Wall Street Journal noted how a U.S. drone strike in southern Yemen barely missed the U.S.-born Al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, the account went something like this: In a span of 45 minutes, the U.S. military fired three errant rockets at Awlaki's pickup truck, two Yemeni brothers and Al Qaeda sympathizers appeared and helped Awlaki switch vehicles, another U.S. missile hit the pickup truck Awlaki had just abandoned, and Awlaki escaped.
But that tale is downright boring compared to a new version of that fateful day in May published by ABC News on Tuesday night. According to ABC's Martha Raddatz, the U.S. military turned "a fearsome array of heavily armed warplanes" on Awlaki, only for the mission to be marred by epic errors. When U.S. crews couldn't keep the laser they use to guide their missiles locked on Awlaki's pickup truck, resulting in a failed missile strike, vehicles rushed to the scene to confuse the U.S. military, Raddatz explains. That's when Awlaki brushed off a humongous fireball "inches" away from him:
With Harriers and a predator drone still overhead, the U.S. fired another missile at Awlaki. This time a huge fireball engulfed the pickup truck. The U.S. military trackers thought they had their man.
But then they watched, stunned, as the truck drove straight out of the fireball to safety. The missile had only grazed the back bumper.
When the Harriers ran out of gas, the remaining planes faced one more improbable obstacle: clouds.
Cloud cover got in the way. Awlaki was able to exploit a moment of hesitation while the targeting pods and the surveillance aircraft were refocusing to jump out of his pickup truck and move to another.
Making the The Journal's account look even more staid, ABC recreated the scene in a video (the account begins about 50 seconds in):