Drone strike targets senior Al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan: US official


KABUL: A US drone strike targeted a senior Al-Qaeda leader in northeastern Afghanistan and his deputy on Sunday, a senior US military official said.

The strike in Kunar province targeted Farouq al-Qahtani, Al-Qaeda’s emir for northeastern Afghanistan, and his deputy Bilal al-Mutaybi, the official said.

The US military believes the men were killed but has not confirmed the strike was successful.

“We feel pretty confident,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

The Pentagon has been tracking Qahtani for years. Military officials had him in their sights in 2012 and almost conducted a strike then, but the mission was scrapped at the last minute because of the risk of civilian casualties.

Qahtani and his deputy were in Hilgal village in Kunar’s Ghazi Abad district, officials said. They were in two separate buildings a few hundred meters (yards) apart and were targeted almost simultaneously with multiple drones.

Provincial spokesman Abdul Ghani Mosamem told AFP at least 15 insurgents were killed, including two Arabs. A number of Pakistani Taliban fighters were also among the fatalities, he said.

An Afghan intelligence official in the province also confirmed two Arabs were killed in the strikes.

Qahtani and Mutaybi are well-known senior Al-Qaeda commanders in Kunar, and had been actively involved in recruiting local young people for the group.