Al Qaeda fig­ures re­ported killed

Los Angeles Times - - The World - Laura King re­port­ing from kan­da­har, afghanistan Alex Ro­driguez re­port­ing from is­lam­abad, pak­istan

An airstrike in east­ern Afghanistan killed a se­nior Al Qaeda com­man­der who had helped smug­gle Arab fight­ers into the coun­try and an ex­plo­sives ex­pert who worked with him, the NATO force re­ported Wed­nes­day.

Sep­a­rately, se­cu­rity sources in Pak­istan re­ported that an even high­er­rank­ing Al Qaeda fig­ure may have been killed in a week­end mis­sile strike.

Taken to­gether, the strikes un­der­scored the fact that not all in­sur­gents fight­ing Western troops in Afghanistan be­long to the Tal­iban. Loose al­liances ex­ist among many mil­i­tant groups, in­clud­ing Al Qaeda, which draws foot sol­diers from the Mid­dle East and Cen­tral Asia, and the Haqqani net­work, a vir­u­lent in­sur­gent fac­tion based in Pak­istan’s North Waziris­tan tribal area.

NATO’s In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity As­sis­tance Force said the bomb­ing of a com­pound in Ku­nar prov­ince, close to the border with Pak­istan, killed Abdallah Umar Qu­rayshi, who had led Al Qaeda-af­fil­i­ated Arab fight­ers op­er­at­ing in two east­ern prov­inces, and Abu Atta Kuwaiti, the ex­plo­sives ex­pert.

The airstrike, in the Koren­gal Val­ley, oc­curred Satur­day, but it took un­til Tues­day to as­cer­tain that Qu­rayshi was among the dead, the North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion force said. Of­fi­cials said the com­pound was the scene of a meet­ing by high-level in­sur­gent com­man­ders, but it was not yet clear whether any other se­nior fig­ures were killed.

The strike killed sev­eral oth­ers thought to be Arab fight­ers, the NATO force said.

Western troops, nearly all of them Amer­i­can, pulled out of the re­mote, rugged Koren­gal about six months ago af­ter suf­fer­ing heavy losses over sev­eral years. Fight­ers led by Qu­rayshi had staged attacks on Western forces in Ku­nar and Nuris­tan prov­inces.

In Pak­istan, au­thor­i­ties were look­ing into whether a se­nior Al Qaeda com­man­der had been killed in a sus­pected CIA drone mis­sile strike over the week­end.

Se­cu­rity sources said they had cred­i­ble re­ports that Sheik Fateh Masri was killed Satur­day near the vil­lage of Doga Macha Madakhel in North Waziris­tan, which had long served as a haven for Al Qaeda and Tal­iban mil­i­tants.

The sources said they were still try­ing to con­firm that Masri was killed. His death would mark an­other sig­nif­i­cant vic­tory in Washington’s cam­paign of drone attacks against Al Qaeda and Tal­iban com­man­ders in Pak­istan’s largely un­governed tribal ar­eas.

Masri was be­lieved to have re­placed Mustafa Abu Yazid, de­scribed as the group’s No. 3 com­man­der. He was killed in a U.S. drone strike in May.

In­tel­li­gence sources said Masri was in a car when the mis­sile struck. Three other sus­pected mil­i­tants in the ve­hi­cle also died.

This month, the U.S. has car­ried out more than 20 drone strikes in Pak­istan’s tribal re­gions, the high­est monthly to­tal in Washington’s drone cam­paign. Most of this month’s strikes have fo­cused on sus­pected Haqqani net­work com­pounds in North Waziris­tan. laura.king@latimes.com alex.ro­driguez @latimes.com Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Zul­fiqar Ali in Peshawar, Pak­istan, con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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