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Friday, 16 September 2011
No confirmation al Qaeda militant dead in Pakistan
Abu Hafs al Shahri, a Saudi national who had been serving as the senior figure in al Qaeda’s central command, was the target of the drone strike which occurred within the last few days, two US officials said on Thursday.
“We have no knowledge of that,” said Pakistan military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas.
Intelligence officials operating in the tribal regions near the Afghan border also had no information on al Shahri.
“We have neither heard of this man operating in this region, nor can we confirm his death,” said one.
While US officials declined to provide precise details, the only drone strike this month occurred on Sunday when a US drone targeted a militant compound near the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan that killed at least three suspected militants.
If confirmed, Al Shahri would be the sixth senior al Qaeda figure killed by either US or Pakistani forces in Pakistan since May with the death of their chief Osama bin Laden in a secret US raid on a Pakistani garrison town.
Two Pakistani intelligence officials said two of the dead in that strike were Pakistani militants, but had no information about the third target. Another intelligence official said he was of Arab origin, but had no further details.
As al Qaeda’s Pakistan operations chief, one of the US officials said, al Shahri’s responsibilities included coordinating the activities of al Qaeda’s depleted central leadership with Pakistan’s principal network of Taliban militants, known as the TTP.
Another senior al Qaeda leader, Younis al Mauritani, was recently captured in Pakistan’s tribal areas in a joint operation staged by US and Pakistani security forces.
That operation was hailed by Washington and Islamabad as an example of strong counter-terrorism cooperation.