Al Qaeda affirms 2 leaders’ deaths
U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan killed two leaders of Al Qaeda’s South Asia branch this year, a spokesman for the militants said, confirming a major blow to the affiliate only months after its creation.
In an audio message, spokesman Usama Mahmood said a Jan. 5 drone strike in North Waziristan killed Ubaidullah, who was in charge of the group’s Afghan affairs, and that a later strike killed deputy chief Raja Suleman. He said both had fought under aliases.
His claim corresponds with the dates of previously reported U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region near the Afghan border.
Mahmood said U.S. drone strikes had killed about 50 members of his group, known as Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent. Pakistani officials had no immediate comment.
The CIA’s drone program, which has killed Al Qaeda leaders, Pakistani Taliban fighters and other militants hiding in the tribal regions, has stoked anger across Pakistan over civilian casualties. Since 2004, the U.S. reportedly has carried out about 400 drone strikes in the country.