Saturday, November 01, 2008

Another Major Al Qaeda Figure Eliminated In Airstrikes

The hits keep on coming for al Qaeda in the lawless border regions in Pakistan. A day after the US revealed that it took out al Qaeda's number four thug, Khalid Habib, in airstrikes two weeks ago, an airstrike yesterday killed another major player.

This time, the US took out Abu Jihad al Masri and several other associates inside North Waziristan:
An Egyptian Al-Qaeda operative -- described by the United States as the terror network's propaganda chief -- was killed in a missile strike in Pakistan, security officials said on Saturday.

Abu Jihad al-Masri was among several rebels killed when two missiles fired by a suspected US spy drone hit a truck in the North Waziristan tribal region bordering Afghanistan on Friday night, they said.

The United States has offered a one-million-dollar bounty for the death or capture of al-Masri, who has appeared in an anti-Western video introduced by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's number two.

"The strike was aimed at a vehicle carrying Abu Jihad and two others. The target was successfully hit and all three people were killed," a senior Pakistani security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

His death came in one of two separate missile attacks in Pakistan's troubled tribal belt on Friday, the latest in a series of 18 strikes in the past three months that have raised tensions between Washington and Islamabad.
Not only have the pace of attacks intensified in recent months, but the number of high value targets has increased as well. That suggests that the level of intel being gathered by the US and likely passed on by the Pakistanis has increased as well. The US must be getting better intel on the whereabouts of major al Qaeda figures and their movements as the US continues to take out top and middle level al Qaeda who would otherwise be busy plotting new attacks against the West and the US.

Bill Roggio notes that an additional airstrike hit major Taliban thugs in Waziristan.
Tahir Yuldalshev, the commander of a Uzbek terror group and Mullah Nazir were the target of the attack. A US intelligence source said that Nazir was wounded in the strike, “possibly seriously.”

Nazir is a rival to Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. He ejected Uzbeks from the al Qaeda-allied Islamic Jihad Union from the Wana region in 2007. This action caused the media to describe Nazir as "pro-government Taliban." But Nazir is allied with the Uzbeks of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

But Nazir openly supports al Qaeda and its leadership. He admitted he would provide shelter to senior al Qaeda leaders. "How can I say no to any request from Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar under tribal traditions, if they approach me to get shelter?" Nazir asked the Pakistani press in the spring of 2007.

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