AQ leader wanted by US in connection with NYC subway plot killed by Pakistan

The Pakistani military announced that a top al-Qaeda operative was killed by government forces in a firefight early Saturday.. Adnan Shukrijumah, a Saudi national, was wanted in the US in connection with a plot to blow up the New York city subway in 2009.

Adnan Shukrijumah was considered a senior leader in the terrorist group, holding a position that was once occupied by 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

NBC News:

Adnan el Shukrijumah, who was indicted in July 2010 for his alleged role in planned terror attacks in the U.S. and Britain, was killed along with two others in a pre-dawn raid, the military told NBC News.

Shukrijumah, 39, was in charge of al Qaida's global operations - a position once held by Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - and was on the FBI's "most wanted" list with a $5 million reward for his capture.

He studied at a community college in Florida but when the FBI showed up to arrest him as a material witness to a terrorism case in 2003, he already had left the country. In 2004, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft called Shukrijumah a "clear and present danger" to the United States.

Prosecutors said Shukrijumah had recruited three men in 2008 to receive training in Pakistan for the subway attack. The three traveled to Pakistan to avenge the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan but were persuaded by al Qaeda operatives to return to the United States for a suicide-bombing mission against a major target such as the New York Stock Exchange, Times Square or Grand Central Terminal. Eventually, the men settled on a plot to blow themselves up at rush hour, according to testimony in federal court.

A senior Pakistan military official, who asked not to be identified, said Shukrijumah's killing, in Shinwarsak, South Waziristan, was a "huge loss" to the terror network.

Local residents in Shinwarsak and its adjoining villages said a large of number of Pakistani troops had encircled the area early Saturday and told villagers to stay home till further orders.

"The entire area was kept under curfew and all schools remained close today. Besides the ground forces, two helicopter gunships took part in the offensive and pounded suspected hideouts of the militants," said local tribesman, Dildar Wazir on phone.

No single terrorist leader is irreplacable, but Shukrijumah death is a big blow to AQ. He was one of their most experienced operatives, and came close to pulling off a spectacular attack on the subway system in New York.Only a confession by one of the plotters exposed the plot and stopped it in its tracks before it could be carried out.

Pakistan has been fighting AQ and the Taliban in Waziristan for more than a decade. The local tribes support the terrorists - sometimes because they're paid and sometimes because they hate the government. But the province is among the most challenging to carry out military action given the lack of roads and the mountainous terrain. The government of Pakistan has had only limited success against the terrorists because of those factors.

Count this operation as a plus.