Pentagon confirms death of senior al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed in a statement today that Faruq al Qatani, a senior al Qaeda leader who was plotting against the US, was killed in an airstrike last month. Cook’s full statement reads:

We can now confirm that the precision strike conducted by the U.S. military on Oct. 23 in Kunar, Afghanistan, resulted in the death of senior al-Qaeda leader Faruq al-Qatani. Al-Qatani was al-Qaeda’s emir for eastern Afghanistan and one of the terrorist group’s senior plotters of attacks against the United States. This successful strike is another example of U.S. operations to degrade international terrorist networks and target terrorist leaders who seek to attack the U.S. homeland, our interests and our allies abroad. Another al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan, Bilal al-Utabi, was also targeted in a separate strike. We are still assessing the results of that strike.

The Long War Journal has written about Qatani on a number of occasions. He was a prominent al Qaeda member for years. Osama bin Laden’s files show that Qatani was trusted to establish safe havens in Afghanistan more than six years ago, meaning he had plenty of time to establish a robust network in the country. In addition to having a hand in al Qaeda’s “external operations” – that is, plots against the West – he also supported the Taliban-led insurgency against the Afghan government, US forces and their allies.

The US launched airstrikes against senior al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen in October. Like Qatani and his lieutenant in Afghanistan, the al Qaeda figures in Syria and Yemen were suspected of either planning attacks against the West, or supporting such plots.

For more on Qatani (also known as Faruq al Qatari), see LWJ reports:

Osama Bin Laden’s Files: ‘Very strong military activity in Afghanistan’

Treasury designates head of al Qaeda’s eastern zone in Afghanistan

US targeted 2 senior al Qaeda leaders in eastern Afghanistan

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

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