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Pakistani Al Qaeda leader killed in U.S. strike

Pakistani officials say Ilyas Kashmiri, head of Al Qaeda's paramilitary operations in Pakistan, was killed in a strike Sept. 7 near the border and an Uzbek commander was slain in a strike this week.

September 18, 2009|Alex Rodriguez and Zulfiqar Ali

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN, AND PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN — A missile fired by a U.S. drone killed a top Al Qaeda operations chief and two other militant commanders in the volatile North Waziristan region, Pakistani military and intelligence sources said Thursday.

The killing of Ilyas Kashmiri, who headed Al Qaeda's paramilitary operations in his native Pakistan, is the latest in a series of successful strikes against Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

In August, a drone strike in South Waziristan killed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mahsud, the country's most-wanted militant, who was accused of engineering suicide bombings of civilian and military targets. U.S. drone strikes have killed several other prominent Al Qaeda militants in recent years.

Pakistani military and intelligence sources said Kashmiri was killed Sept. 7 in the Machikhel area of North Waziristan. Two other local militant commanders, Hanifullah Janikhel and Kaleemullah, also were killed.

A top Uzbek militant commander, Nazimuddin, was believed killed in a U.S. drone strike Monday in North Waziristan, the Associated Press reported.

The United States' use of drones to attack Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan's tribal areas has been one of the biggest sources of public discord between the Pakistani government and Washington.

Though Pakistani leaders publicly condemn the attacks because of the civilian casualties they cause, it is widely believed that they tacitly allow the strikes. In the case of Mahsud's death, Pakistani intelligence helped the U.S. pinpoint his location.

Top Al Qaeda leaders who have been killed in U.S. strikes on Pakistani soil include Abu Hamza Rabia, an Egyptian suspected of heading Al Qaeda's international operations, senior Al Qaeda leader Abu Laith al Libi and Abu Sulayman Jazairi, an Algerian explosives specialist.

This week, Pakistani military leaders announced the capture of Sher Mohammed Qasab, a Taliban commander in the Swat Valley. Qasab was arrested Wednesday in the Charbagh area of the valley, which militants controlled before the Pakistani military launched a major offensive to drive them out in late April.

Qasab is accused of personally beheading Pakistani soldiers and setting fire to a girls schools in Swat. He was captured after he and his sons exchanged gunfire with troops, the military said. Three of his sons were killed and a fourth was captured.

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alex.rodriguez@latimes.com

Ali is a special correspondent

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