Missile Strike Kills Senior Al-Qaeda Operative, U.S. Says

U.S. officials believe that al-Qaeda's third in command died in a missile attack conducted in Pakistan's Waziristan region in the past two weeks, Newsweek reported yesterday (see GSN, May 14).

"Word is spreading in extremist circles of the death of [Mustafa Abu al-Yazid], widely viewed as the No. 3 figure in al-Qaeda," one official said. "We have strong reason to believe that's true, and that (al-Yazid) was killed recently in Pakistan's tribal areas. In terms of counterterrorism, this would be a big victory."

The United States has identified al-Yazid, also called Sheik Saeed al-Masri, as the "chief operating officer" for the core leadership of the terrorist organization, according to the source. Al-Masri "had a hand in everything from finances to operational planning. He was also the organization's prime conduit to [al-Qaeda leader Osama] bin Laden and (Ayman al-)Zawahiri. He was key to al-Qaeda's command and control," the official added.

"His death would be a major blow to al-Qaeda, which in December lost both its internal and external operations chiefs. Though these terrorists remain extremely dangerous and determined to strike at the United States, the removal from the battlefield of top leaders like (al-Yazid) is further proof that the tribal areas are not quite the safe haven al-Qaeda and its allies thought them to be," the official said (Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, June 1).

Meanwhile, Pakistani last week freed a former army officer who had been linked by phone calls to the U.S. citizen suspected of attempting to carry out a bombing in New York City's Times Square last month, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday (see GSN, May 19).

Authorities ultimately found Adnan Ahmad to have no connections to Faisal Shahzad, the man charged with the failed bombing. The released man's brother, Qamar Ahmad, was also set to be freed from custody in the near future, law enforcement officials said.

Pakistan has so far freed seven of 13 people detained in the bombing case, according to the officials (Rodriguez/Cloud, Los Angeles Times, May 31).

June 2, 2010
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U.S. officials believe that al-Qaeda's third in command died in a missile attack conducted in Pakistan's Waziristan region in the past two weeks, Newsweek reported yesterday (see GSN, May 14).