WASHINGTON // An al Qa'eda leader believed to have played a key role in the bombing of a CIA post in Afghanistan last December was apparently killed by an American missile strike last week, a senior US official said yesterday. The counterterrorism official said Hussein al Yemeni was believed killed in a strike in Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan. Drone strikes in Pakistan's border region, largely conducted by the CIA, have escalated in recent months, proving an effective way to target al Qa'eda and Taliban leaders hiding in the rugged mountainous border.
While Pakistani officials have criticised the strikes, it is widely believed that Islamabad privately supports the attacks and works with the US to provide intelligence. The CIA director Leon Panetta said the stepped-up campaign has driven Osama bin Laden and other leaders deeper into hiding and left al Qa'eda and the Taliban in Pakistan's tribal regions in disarray. "Those operations are seriously disrupting al Qa'eda," Mr Panetta told The Washington Post in an interview.
"It's pretty clear from all the intelligence we are getting that they are having a very difficult time putting together any kind of command and control, that they are scrambling. And that we really do have them on the run." Al Yemeni is considered an important al Qa'eda planner and explosives expert who had established contact with groups ranging from al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula to Afghan and Pakistani Taliban militant groups. He is also known as Ghazwan al Yemeni.
The counterterrorism official said al Yemeni was in his late 20s or early 30s and was a conduit in Pakistan for funds, messages, and recruiting but that he specialised in suicide operations. A jihadist website linked to al Qa'eda recently announced his death, said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who now is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center. "This is another sign that drone operations and stepped-up efforts against al Qa'eda are having an impact in the tribal regions," Mr Riedel said yesterday.
He said al Yemeni served prison time in Yemen in 2005 before being released and has since moved through Afghanistan and Iran and was a trainer for the Taliban. * AP