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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Top al-Qaida figure reported killed in Afghanistan

    KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — An airstrike in eastern Afghanistan killed a senior al-Qaida commander who had helped smuggle Arab fighters into the country and an explosives expert who worked with him, the NATO force reported Wednesday.

    Separately, security sources in Pakistan reported that an even more high-ranking al-Qaida figure may have been killed in a weekend missile strike.

    Taken together, the strikes underscored the fact that not all insurgents fighting Western troops in Afghanistan are Taliban. Loose alliances exist among many militant groups, including al-Qaida, which draws foot soldiers from the Middle East and Central Asia, and the Haqqani network, a virulent insurgent faction based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area.

    NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said the precision bombing of a compound in Kunar province, close to the Pakistan border, killed Abdallah Umar al-Qurayshi, who had led al-Qaida-affiliated Arab fighters operating in two eastern provinces, together with Abu Atta al-Kuwaiti, an al-Qaida explosives expert.

    The airstrike, in Kunar province’s Korengal Valley, occurred Saturday, but it took until Tuesday to ascertain that al-Qurayshi was among the dead, the NATO force said. Officials said the compound was the scene of a meeting by high-level insurgent commanders, but it was not yet clear whether any other senior figures were among the dead.

    The strike killed “”several”” others thought to be Arab fighters, the NATO force said.

    Western troops, nearly all of them American, pulled out of the remote, rugged Korengal about six months ago after suffering heavy losses over a period of several years. Fighters led by al-Qurayshi had staged attacks on Western forces in Kunar and Nuristan provinces, where insurgents have sometimes targeted isolated American outposts with devastating results.

    In Pakistan, authorities were looking into whether another senior al-Qaida commander was killed in a suspected CIA drone missile strike over the weekend.

    Pakistani security sources said they had credible reports that Sheikh Fateh al-Masri was killed Saturday near the village of Doga Macha Madakhel in North Waziristan, which had long served as a safe haven for al-Qaida and Taliban militants.

    The sources said they were still trying to confirm that al-Masri was killed in the attack. If confirmed, his death would mark another significant victory in Washington’s ongoing campaign of drone attacks against al-Qaida and Taliban commanders in Pakistan’s largely ungoverned tribal areas.

    Al-Masri was believed to have replaced Mustafa al-Yazid, another senior al-Qaida figure, described as the group’s No. 3 commander. He was killed in a U.S. drone missile strike in May.

    Pakistani intelligence sources said al-Masri was in a car when the missile struck. Three other suspected militants in the vehicle also died in the attack.

    So far this month, the U.S. has carried out 21 drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal regions, the highest monthly total ever in Washington’s ongoing drone campaign against militants. Most of this month’s strikes have focused on suspected strongholds and compounds in North Waziristan belonging to the Haqqani network.

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