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Mar 18th, 2010

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Missile Strike Kills Top al-Qaida Leader

Planner thought to have role in bombing of CIA base in Afghanistan

Image: Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi
Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi killed seven CIA officers and contractors, a Jordanian intelligence officer, and a driver when he blew himself up at a CIA facility in Afghanistan, on Dec. 30, 2009. (Photo credit: IntelCenter via EPA / AP)

Robert Windrem and Jim Miklaszewski

March 17, 2010

WASHINGTON — A missile strike in Pakistan last week killed a top al-Qaida leader believed to have been a key player in the suicide attack that killed seven CIA operatives in Afghanistan, U.S. officials told NBC News Wednesday.

According to officials, Hussein al-Yemeni was a “top al-Qaida planner, facilitator and bomb maker.”

The Hellfire missile strike took place in a “densely populated area” of Miram Shah in North Waziristan, Pakistan, the location of a bomb-making facility.

U.S. officials also report that besides his al-Qaida connections, al-Yemeni was tied to the Haqqani Taliban network out of Afghanistan, but was headquartered across the border in Pakistan.

In the Khost attack on Dec. 30, a Jordanian suicide bomber killed seven CIA employees — four officers and three contracted security guards — and a Jordanian intelligence officer. It was the worst CIA loss of life since the 1983 Beirut Embassy bombings, when eight CIA officers were killed.

Increased attacks

The report of al-Yemeni’s killing is yet another indicator of a dramatically increased tempo of Predator attacks on suspected al-Qaida and Taliban encampments in the tribal areas of western Pakistan.

The tempo has been driven in part by the CIA’s desire to avenge the deaths of its officers in Khost.

The number of attacks since January, many in direct retaliation for the Khost attack, has now reached 20, officials say. That’s already half the number carried out all of last year. Rather than focus on top leadership, say U.S officials, the latest wave of attacks is focusing on training camps, bomb-making facilities and safe houses.

List of al-Qaida leaders killed

The U.S. believes the attacks are having a qualitative effect on al-Qaida. A list of those killed in Predator attacks in the past two years was provided to NBC News.

The list includes a number of top officials, if not the most senior and best known al-Qaida leaders:

  • Khalid Habib (veteran combat leader and operations chief involved with plots to attack the West; deputy to Shaikh Sa’id al-Masri, al-Qaeda’s #3).
  • Rashid Rauf (mastermind of the 2006 transatlantic airliner plot).
  • Abu Khabab al-Masri (al-Qaeda’s most seasoned explosives expert and trainer, and the man responsible for its chemical and biological weapons efforts).
  • Abdallah Azzam (senior aide to Sheikh Sa’id al-Masri).
  • Abu al-Hassan al-Rimi (led cross-border operations against coalition forces in Afghanistan).
  • Abu Sulaiman al-Jaziri (senior external operations planner and facilitator).
  • Abu Jihad al-Masri (senior operational planner and propagandist).
  • Usama al-Kini (Marriott attack planner and listed on the FBI’s terrorist most wanted list).
  • Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan (involved in the attacks on the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania).
  • Abu Sulaiman al-Jaziri (senior trainer and external operations plotter).
  • Baitullah Mehsud (leader of the Pakistani Taliban).
  • Yahyo (leader of the Islamic Jihad Union of Uzbekistan).
  • Saleh al-Somali (senior al-Qaeda external operations planner).
  • Abdullah Said (al-Qaeda’s chief of internal operations).

It’s not a typo that two Abu Sulaiman al-Jaziris are on the list. “There were two, and now there aren’t,” said a U.S. counterterrorism official.

Beyond that list, the U.S. believes it killed Hakimullah Mehsud, who succeeded his brother as head of the Pakistan Taliban and was featured in the Jordanian bomber’s martyrdom video.

The attacks in which he was targeted took place two months ago, and he has not been heard from since.


4/29/10 Update

Is Hakimullah Mehsud Alive?

By Mark Hosenball
Newsweek logo Declassified
April 29, 2010


Pakistani intelligence officials are reportedly claiming that an American drone attack failed to kill Hakimullah Mehsud after all. As Declassified previously reported here and here, the Pakistani Taliban commander, who costarred in the “martyrdom video” of a Jordanian double agent who killed seven Americans and a Jordanian intelligence officer [link added] at a secret CIA base in Afghanistan in December, was thought to have been in the sights of a missile fired by a Predator drone this January.

In subsequent weeks, Mehsud, regarded by counterterrorism experts as something of a media hound, did not appear in any new video or audio messages, and U.S. officials expressed growing confidence that he indeed was dead. Nevertheless, Declassified’s sources continued to warn that their confidence in his demise was less than absolute.

Now unnamed Pakistani operatives are being quoted as claiming that Mehsud was only wounded. “He is alive … He had some wounds but he is basically OK,” the Guardian quoted a senior Pakistani intelligence official as saying. The BBC reported that it had received a video of Mehsu, but that it could not determine when the footage was shot. …

Baitullah Mehsud (no relation to Hakimullah), widely blamed for masterminding the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was reportedly killed in a CIA drone strike last August. His successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, earned the deep enmity of the CIA when he was shown sitting at the right hand of Jordanian doctor Humam Khalil Abu Mulala al-Balawi [link added] in a “martyrdom video that was released after Balawi carried out a suicide bombing at a CIA outpost in Khost on Dec. 30.


11/1/13 Update

Leader of Pakistan Taliban killed in U.S. drone strike (NBC News, Nov. 1, 2013) — The leader of the Pakistan Taliban was killed Friday in a U.S. drone strike in Northwest Pakistan, U.S. and Pakistani officials tell NBC News. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed  the death of Hakimullah Mehsud, head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in a CIA drone strike. … Full story


Related reports on this site

CIA Bombers Tangled Web (March 4, 2010)

New Details in CIA Bombing (Jan. 10, 2010)

Balawi Fit Suicide Bomber Profile (Jan. 5, 2010)

CIA Zawahiri Team Decimated (Jan. 4, 2010)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — March 18, 2009

The Princess of Pork

Michele Bachmann gestures as she speaks at the Republican National Convention in 2008. (Photo: Paul Sancya / AP)
Photo: Paul Sancya / AP

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that MSNBC “Countdown” featured a segment titled “Pork Princess: Bachmann’s Earmark Delusion,” in which anchor Keith Olbermann berated U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann for signing a “No Earmarks” pledge, violating her own pledge by shamelessly requesting millions of dollars in earmarks, and then dishonestly claiming she had not requested any earmarks.

Pat Kessler reporting on WCCO

Reality Check: Bachmanns Earmarks

On March 18, 2009 WCCO political reporter Pat Kessler fact-checked the Bachmann pork “no-earmark” story on the “Reality Check” segment of WCCO 4 News at 10.

Watch video: Bachmann’s Earmarks (02:17)

3 Responses to “CIA Bombing: Qaida Leader Killed”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » NATO Ultimatum to Gadhafi Says:

    […] CIA Bombing: Al-Qaida Leader Killed […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Times Square Bomb Plot Suspects Says:

    […] In the video, Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban chief, also refutes earlier Pakistani and American claims that he died in a U.S. missile strike in January 2010, a belief Pakistani intelligence officials recently revised. […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » The Taliban’s “Dirty Dozen” Says:

    […] CIA Bombing: Qaida Leader Killed (March 18, 2010) […]

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