Al-Qaeda top leaders pinned down in Afghanistan by US strike

Al-Qaeda top leaders pinned down in Afghanistan by US strike

WASHINGTON: A US strike against a senior Al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan in October also killed two other senior operatives, the Pentagon said Monday.

The Defense Department had already announced the death of Farouq al-Qahtani, Al-Qaeda’s emir for northeastern Afghanistan, who was killed in the October 23 drone strike in Kunar province.

On Monday, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed the strike also killed Bilal al-Utabi, Qahtani’s deputy, as well as Abd al-Wahid al-Junabi, described as “a senior Al-Qaeda explosives expert.”

“All three were actively involved in carrying out and plotting terror attacks inside and outside Afghanistan,” Cook said.

Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security had already confirmed Utabi’s death.

The Pentagon had been actively hunting Qahtani for four years.

He had longstanding ties with Osama bin Laden before his death in a 2011 US raid on his Pakistan compound.

In October 2001, in response to the 9/11 attacks, the US launched military operations to dislodge the Taliban from Afghanistan and capture or kill Al-Qaeda militants they were harboring.

Their numbers have since been decimated, but the United States is still targeting remnants of the group.