A “high-ranking” al-Qaida figure was killed Thursday in an attack by a drone aircraft, U.S. officials told NBC News.Bill Roggio at Long War Journal confirmed that the strike did take place, and that the Pakistani denials of several other strikes were inaccurate. No word on who the target was, but it was the first strikes in South Waziristan since Pakistani forces began their operations to root out Taliban elements who have been wreaking havoc in Pakistan via terror attacks against marketplaces and even against military and intel targets.
The officials did not identify who was killed, except to say that it was not al-Qaida’s supreme leader, Osama bin Laden. If the report is confirmed, it would be the first time coalition forces had killed a top al-Qaida figure in almost a year.
The officials said the killing was the result of stepped-up operations targeting al-Qaida leaders in recent weeks.
The Pakistani denials may be part of trying to maintain morale among Pakistani forces who have not yet achieved their goals along with undermining US efforts to go after top leadership in the past year in a stepped-up UAV airstrike campaign.