VOA News/ October 26, 2016
A U.S. drone strike this week targeted the top al-Qaida leader in Afghanistan and his deputy, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
A U.S. official called Sunday’s operation against Faruq al-Qatani and Bilal al-Utabi the most significant al-Qaida strike in Afghanistan in several years.
The official said accounts from the ground described the two targets as having been “leveled,” but that the results were still being assessed and the men’s deaths could not yet be confirmed.
Al-Qatani was hiding out in Kunar province. The official said the U.S. had been looking for him for four years.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said al-Qaida leaders ordered al-Qatani to re-establish al-Qaida safe havens in Afghanistan.
He said al-Qatani was a senior planner for attacks against the United States and had a long history of targeting U.S. forces and their coalition allies.
Cook said if al-Qatani and al-Utabi were dead, it would be a “significant blow” to al-Qaida and its efforts to plot against the United States and its partners.