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U.S. drone strike in Pakistan kills al-Qaida leader

| Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, 6:54 p.m.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A U.S. drone strike has killed a senior al-Qaida leader in Pakistan's tribal region near the Afghan border, Pakistani intelligence officials said, in the latest blow to the Islamic militant network.

Sheik Khalid bin Abdel Rehman al-Hussainan, who was also known as Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti, was killed when missiles slammed into a house Thursday near Mir Ali, one of the main towns in the North Waziristan tribal area, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Al-Kuwaiti appeared in many videos released by al-Qaida's media wing, Al-Sahab, and was presented as a religious scholar for the group.

Earlier this year, he replaced Abu Yahya al-Libi, al-Qaida's second in command, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan in June, the intelligence officials said.

Al-Kuwaiti appeared to be a less prominent figure and was not on the State Department's list of most wanted terrorist suspects, as al-Libi had been.

Covert CIA drone strikes have killed a series of senior al-Qaida and Taliban leaders in Pakistan's tribal region during the past few years.

On Sunday, four drone-launched missiles blew apart a house near Miran Shah, another main town in North Waziristan, killing three suspected militants, intelligence officials said. .

Al-Kuwaiti's wife and daughter were wounded in Thursday's drone attack, according to the intelligence officials. His wife died a day later at a hospital in Miran Shah.

Al-Qaida's central leadership in Pakistan has been dealt a series of sharp blows in the past few years, including the U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad last year.

Many analysts believe the biggest threat now comes from al-Qaida franchises in Yemen and Somalia.

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