A senior operations organizer for al-Qaeda has apparently been killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan.
U.S. and Pakistani sources told Reuters that the target of the attack was Aslam Awan, a Pakistani national from Abbottabad, the same town where Osama bin Laden was killed last May by a U.S. commando team. They said he was targeted in a strike by a U.S.-operated drone on January 10 directed at what news reports said was a compound near the town of Miranshah in the border province of North Waziristan.
That strike broke an undeclared eight-week hiatus in attacks by the armed, unmanned drones that patrol Pakistan's tribal areas and are a key weapon in U.S. President Barack Obama's counter-terrorism strategy.
The sources described Awan, who also was known by the nom-de-guerre Abdullah Khorasani, as a significant figure in the remaining core leadership of al Qaeda, which U.S. officials say has been sharply reduced by the drone campaign. Most of the drone attacks are conducted as part of a clandestine CIA operation.
Pakistani officials could not confirm that Awan was killed in the drone attack, but the U.S. official said he was.
One of the sources described Awan as an associate of al Qaeda's current chief of external operations, whose identity is known to intelligence officials but not to the general public.
"Aslam Awan was a senior al-Qaeda external operations planner who was working on attacks against the West. His death reduces al-Qaeda's thinning bench of another operative devoted to plotting the death of innocent civilians," a U.S. official said.
I wouldn't read too much into Pakistan allowing a drone strike or two on their territory. They are still upset with us over the bin Laden and border attacks that killed some Pakistani soldiers. We probably informed them after the fact and any admission that they are cooperating with us again would undermine the fragile government of President Zardari.