Al Qaeda leaders killed in drone strikes
A pair of U.S. missiles killed two al-Qaeda operations planners in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region this month, part of a 48-hour fusillade that also killed another al-Qaeda operative and a top deputy in the militant Haqqani network, U.S. officials confirmed Thursday.
The deaths were disclosed on the same day that a suspected CIA drone killed five leaders of a Pakistani Taliban unit linked to attacks on international forces in Afghanistan, according to local authorities in Pakistan. The Thursday strike brought to five the number of U.S. missile attacks in the lawless tribal area since Oct. 1.
Separate strikes Oct. 14 killed Abu Miqdad al-Masri and Abd al-Rahman al-Yemeni, two al-Qaeda veterans tied to the group’s senior leadership and actively involved in planning operations overseas, said two senior U.S. officials familiar with details of CIA operations. The officials said Masri was a former associate of Osama bin Laden.
“They were key figures important to what is left of the network,” said one of the two U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the highly classified CIA drone program.
Release of the names was delayed while U.S. officials sought to verify the deaths, the officials said. Other alleged senior militant operatives killed during a flurry of missile strikes Oct.13-14 were previously identified as Ahmed Omar Abdul Rahman, also known as Saifullah, the son of the blind Egyptian cleric tied to the 1993 bombing of New York’s World Trace Center; and Janbaz Zadran, a high-ranking member of the Haqqani network, which battles U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
...Al Qaeda attrition has continued to be significant since the killing of bin Laden. The group seems to be losing its core operational troops. It has been having trouble recruiting replacements since its mass murder campaigns in Iraq ruined its brand to the point bin Laden considered a name change. Some of its senior allies in the Taliban are also now under attack. Those attacks need to be increased and sustained.