US officials yesterday said that Al-Qaeda officials who were planning attacks in the west and in Afghanistan were targeted by a drone strike in the biggest operation against the organisation in a long time.
Several rockets were launched during the operation which targeted two sites in the Kunar province in north-eastern Afghanistan which borders Pakistan on Sunday.
According to an official, the raid targeted Farouq Al-Qahtani, Al-Qaeda’s leader in Afghanistan and his deputy Bilal Al-Otaibi. The official said that he was not able to confirm whether the leaders had been killed but “was almost sure of it”. He also said that the US Department of Defence considers this operation to be the “most significant strike” carried out against Al-Qaeda in years.
The Pentagon’s Press Secretary Peter Cook said that “We are still assessing the results of the strikes, but their demise would represent a significant blow to the terrorist group’s presence in Afghanistan, which remains committed to facilitating attacks against the United States, our allies, and partners”.
The United States has been pursuing Al-Qahtani, a close associate of Osama bin Laden, for years and explained that it is known that he recruited “a large number of young people in the region to join Al-Qaeda’s ranks which are declining today”.
It also appears that Al-Qahtani funded and prepared attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan, southeast Asia and the west. An American source said that he used to raise funds and distribute them amongst parties that support Al-Qaeda in the Gulf in order to finance the organisation’s operations abroad and that of the Taliban in Afghanistan. He added that “Al-Otaibi is the one who organised everything to make Afghanistan a safe base from which they could threaten the west, and oversaw the recruitment and training of foreign fighters.”