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NATO confirms senior al-Qaida commander killed in airstrike

KABUL, Afghanistan — A NATO airstrike killed a senior al-Qaida commander in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday, as Pakistan investigated reports that a separate CIA drone-launched missile killed the insurgents' No. 3 commander.

Separately, NATO said two coalition service members were killed — one by a homemade bomb on Wednesday and another in an insurgent attack on Tuesday.

Both were killed in southern Afghanistan where the coalition is currently conducting Operation Dragon Strike to flush out militants in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar province, but the coalition would not say whether their deaths were part of the ongoing operation.

The Associated Press said it was told by a Western counterterrorism official in Washington that strikes by unmanned drones in Pakistan's volatile border region were also an effort to disrupt suspected terror plots in Europe.

It wasn't known whether the drone attacks were related specifically to a terror plot against Britain, France and Germany that European authorities said they intercepted. The Eiffel Tower was briefly evacuated Tuesday evening after officials received a bomb threat.

NATO said the airstrike in eastern Afghanistan killed several militants, including Abdallah Umar al-Qurayshi, a senior al-Qaida commander of Saudi origin who coordinated attacks by Arab fighters in Kunar and Nuristan provinces near the Pakistani border. NATO said an air weapons team went in after the strike and confirmed that the targeted structure was destroyed.

Pakistani security officials, meanwhile, said they were investigating reports that a missile strike from a CIA drone killed Sheikh Fateh al-Masri as he traveled in a tribal region near the border. Masri is believed to have replaced Mustafa al-Yazid, who was killed in a missile strike in May, as the group's No. 3 commander.

NATO confirms senior al-Qaida commander killed in airstrike 09/29/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 9:58pm]
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