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US: Strike killed al Qaeda leader al-Qatani in Afghanistan

The US says an airstrike in Afghanistan last month killed a senior al Qaeda leader in the country. Faruq al-Qatani was one of the group's "senior plotters of attacks against the United States," according to the Pentagon.

Faruq al-Qatani, who served as al Qaeda's leader for northeastern Afghanistan, was killed in the October 23 "precision strike" in Kunar province, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.

He added that the US military had conducted a second airstrike on the same day targeting another Afghanistan-based al Qaeda leader, Bilal al-Utabi. He said it wasn't yet clear whether al-Utabi, considered to be Qatani's deputy, had survived.

US officials last month announced that multiple Hellfire missiles had leveled two compounds in Kunar where the two men were believed to be hiding. Both leaders were reportedly involved in efforts to re-establish a safe haven for al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Cook said al-Qatani was one of the terror group's "senior plotters of attacks against the United States."

The al Qaeda leader, who had longstanding ties with Osama bin Laden, had been operating in Afghanistan since at least 2009. It's believed he had also been leading an al Qaeda battalion there since mid-2010. The Pentagon has been actively hunting al-Qatani for four years. 

nm/kl (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)