Sheik Khalid bin Abdel Rehman al-Hussainan, who was also known as Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti, died when missiles destroyed a house close to Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.
He had appeared in several videos produced by the group’s media wing and is believed to be an influential religious thinker within the movement.
His death is the latest blow to al-Qaeda’s core leadership that has been battered by drone strikes in Pakistan – killing several mid to high ranking figures – since Osama bin Laden was shot dead by US Navy Seals last year.
Al-Qaeda said he died on Thursday during a late dinner following a day of fasting.
“We announce the martyrdom of Sheikh Khaled al-Hussainan who died as he was having his sohur meal and we pray to God to accept him in heaven,” said a statement posted on several websites.]]>
The 46-year-old cleric had been promoted earlier this year following the death of Abu Yahya al-Libi, al-Qaeda’s second in command, according to intelligence sources, taking over his role as a senior religious scholar. His wife is also thought to have died in the attack. The CIA’s classified drones programme is hugely controversial in Pakistan, where the government condemns the strikes as an infringement of sovereignty despite privately giving the go-ahead. However, opponents argue that the attacks kill hundreds of civilians and help militant groups attract recruits. Meanwhile, a US special forces commando has been killed during a mission in Afghanistan that succeeded in rescuing a kidnapped American doctor.
President Barack Obama said that in carrying out the raid in eastern Afghanistan the commando team had shown “the selfless service that allows our nation to stay strong, safe and free.”
The US soldiers killed seven Taliban insurgents in the pre-dawn raid Sunday, launched when intelligence showed that the hostage, Dr Dilip Joseph, was in “imminent danger of injury or death”, Nato’s International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.
Dr Joseph had been abducted on December 5 by Taliban insurgents in the Surobi district of Kabul province.
Mr Obama said the rescue mission “was characteristic of the extraordinary courage, skill and patriotism that our troops show every day.”
He offered thoughts and prayers to the family of the fallen commando, who was not identified in the statement. (The Telegraph)