US drone strikes target two al Qaeda leaders
The US has carried out precision strikes against two top al Qaeda leaders, including one involved in plotting deadly attacks against American forces, in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has said.
The US forces launched the strikes on October 23 in Kunar Province, targeting Faruq al-Qatani and Bilal al-Utabi – two of al-Qaeda’s senior-most leaders in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said on Wednesday.
The US military believes the leaders were killed, but has not yet confirmed whether the strikes were successful.
“We are still assessing the results of the strikes, but their demise would represent a significant blow to the terrorist group’s presence in Afghanistan, which remains committed to facilitating attacks against the United States, our allies, and partners,” he said.
Al-Qatani served as al-Qaeda’s emir for northeastern Afghanistan and was assigned by the group’s leadership to re-establish al-Qaeda safe havens in Afghanistan. He was a senior planner for attacks against the US and has a long history of directing deadly attacks against US forces and our coalition allies, Cook said.
Likewise, al-Utabi is assessed to have been involved in efforts to re-establish a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to threaten the West and to recruit and train foreign fighters.
After an extensive period of surveillance, the US targeted al-Qatani and al-Utabi at what was assessed as command-and-control locations in remote areas of Kunar province, Cook said.
“If these strikes are determined to be successful, eliminating these core leaders of al-Qaeda will disrupt efforts to plot against the United States and our allies and partners around the world, reduce the threat to our Afghan partners, and assist their efforts to deny al-Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan,” Cook said.