Senior al Qaeda leader killed in recent drone strike: report

A senior al Qaeda operative who served as an aide to al Qaeda’s external operations chief was killed in a drone strike last week, according to US officials. The report has not been confirmed.

Aslam Awan, a deputy to the leader of al Qaeda’s external operations network, was killed in the Jan. 11 airstrike in Miramshah, the main town in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, US officials told Reuters. The external operations network is a branch of al Qaeda’s military council that is tasked with striking in the US, Europe, and areas outside of South Asia.

Awan is a Pakistani citizen who is also known as Abdullah Khorasani, US officials told Reuters. He is from Abbottabad, the same Pakistani city where Osama bin Laden was killed in May 2011 by US special operations forces. US officials did not disclose why they believe Awan was killed, and al Qaeda has not released a statement confirming his death.

The Jan. 11 strike targeted a compound on the outskirts of Miramshah; four “militants,” including three “Arabs,” were said to have been killed in the strike. The identity of the Arabs has not been disclosed. That strike ended a 55-day-long pause, the longest lull in strikes since the US ramped up attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas in August 2008.

The drone strikes had been put on hold after a clash between US and Pakistani forces along the Afghan border resulted in the deaths of 24 Pakistani troops. US officials told The Long War Journal on Dec. 12, however, that they would strike if a top-level al Qaeda leader was spotted.

The Jan. 11 strike was followed by another on Jan. 12, also near Miramshah, in which six more “militants,” including “foreigners,” a term used to describe Arab members of al Qaeda and Central Asian terrorists, were thought to have been killed. Pakistani intelligence officials said that Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, was killed in that strike, but offered little evidence to back up the claim. The Taliban have denied the reports.

Reuters said Awan was “a significant figure” in what US officials described as “the remaining core leadership of al Qaeda” based in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Awan’s boss, the external operations chief, has not been named but is said to be known by the CIA.

US officials have previously claimed that only two significant al Qaeda leaders – Ayman al Zawahiri, the emir, and Abu Yahya al Libi, a top leader – remain in Pakistan. But US intelligence officials who have spoken to The Long War Journal have said this analysis is deeply flawed, as al Qaeda has leveraged members of allied terror groups to fill leadership positions, and the terror group operates throughout Pakistan, not just in the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan where the drones are active.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Tyler says:

    Telling that Al Qaeda is relying more and more on Pakistani-born members to lead the group. The bench of ‘Arab Afghans’ is drying up fast.

  • Gitsum says:

    …….and another one down, another one down, another one bites the dust….

  • Paul says:

    Are we fighting a proxy war against Pakistan in Afghanistan?

  • zulu1 says:

    “the externals operations chief has not been named but is known by the CIA”
    Does this mean that everyone is now agreeing that Ilyas Kashmiri actually did die in that drone strike of june 2011?
    What I have heard Kashmiri hasn’t got any nice euologies yet though…

  • JT says:

    It is very possible that this HVT was the big hit, and some assumed that it was Hucky Mehsud.
    I would not be surprised if this is the case, but it would be better if one of the strikes got Awan and the other got Mehsud.

  • Devin Leonard says:

    It’s always good news when we wax another Al Qaida dirt bag, but we need to get at the Al Qaida boys in Pakistan to make the kind of progress that Obama keeps talking about.

  • Marlin says:

    I would like to believe this article is true. The Pakistanis are certainly duplicitous enough for it to be true.

    The death of a senior al Qaeda leader in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal badlands, the first strike in almost two months, signaled that the U.S.-Pakistan intelligence partnership is still in operation despite political tensions.
    The Jan 10 strike — and its follow-up two days later — were joint operations, a Pakistani security source based in the tribal areas told Reuters.
    They made use of Pakistani “spotters” on the ground and demonstrated a level of coordination that both sides have sought to downplay since tensions erupted in January 2011 with the killing of two Pakistanis by a CIA contractor in Lahore.
    “Our working relationship is a bit different from our political relationship,” the source told Reuters, requesting anonymity. “It’s more productive.”

    Reuters: Exclusive: How Pakistan helps the U.S. drone campaign

  • Vienna,January 23,2012
    The incident should be taken only as test case while
    we should await what is happening on the center of
    gravity inside Pakistan,Hussain Haqqani being the
    guest of Prime Minister and his army backed hunter
    Ijaz Monsoor awaiting a Guard of Honour as he appears
    before Pakistan´s sham apex court.The result there in a
    couple of days should signify future course of the long
    war and U.S.-Pakistan relations.What happens to the
    more than 50 extremist god´s war groups also await
    the signal. A time that calls prudency dealing with
    Iran´s nuclear technology that is sourced to the
    epi-center.A complex plasma bomb not from the sun
    but from the faithful warmongers.
    Taravadu Taranga Trust for Media Monitoring TTTMM India
    –Kulamarva Balakrishna

  • Dan N. says:

    Ahmed Omar Farooq assumed charge of the group after a US drone strike killed its leader, Ilyas Kashmiri, in North Waziristan last June. He’s also succeeded Kashmiri as the chief of Al Qaeda’s military operations in Pakistan, making him the only Pakistani who’s trusted enough to be included in the terrorist network’s hierarchy, the militants and security officials said


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