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U.S. Drone Strike Said To Target Al-Qaeda Leader In Pakistan

  • RFE/RL

There have been eight U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan in the past two weeks.

There have been eight U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan in the past two weeks.

Reports say a U.S. drone strike has targeted a senior Al-Qaeda leader -- but it was unclear whether he was among those hit.

U.S. and Pakistani government sources said Abu Yahya al-Libi was the target of a drone strike early on June 4 in Pakistan’s northwestern region of North Waziristan.

U.S. officials say fewer than five people were hit. Pakistani officials say more than a dozen people have been killed in two days of strikes in Pakistan.

Al-Libi, a Libyan citizen, is regarded as a senior aide to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri.

Al-Libi took the second-in-command spot when the Egyptian-born al-Zawahri took charge of Al-Qaeda after Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. troops last year in Pakistan.

The U.S. State Department's Rewards for Justice program has set a $1 million reward for information leading to the capture of al-Libi, who had filmed numerous propaganda videos urging attacks on U.S. targets after he escaped from a prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in 2005.

'A Hub Of Activity'

Al-Libi was captured in 2002, after NATO forces toppled Afghanistan's Taliban rulers, and was held at the U.S. high-security prison at Bagram Air Base before he escaped.

He was reported killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in 2009, but officials said that turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.

Al-Libi is reportedly currently in charge of day-to-day Al-Qaeda operations in Pakistan's tribal areas.

Pakistan's frontier tribal region is considered a hub of activity by Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.

There have been eight U.S. drone strikes in the past two weeks, despite Pakistani demands for them to be stopped.

A recent report in "The New York Times" says the White House maintains a list of suspected terrorists that could be targeted by drones. The report says the list is compiled by the military and the CIA, and strikes are ultimately approved by the president.

The Pakistani government says the U.S. drone campaign fuels anti-American sentiment, and is counterproductive because of the collateral damage -- civilian deaths -- it causes.

U.S. officials say such strikes by the remotely piloted aircraft are a highly effective way of attacking militants.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

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