Al Qaeda's chief of operations in Pakistan has been reported dead by U.S. officials, adding to the series of blows against the terrorist network in recent weeks including the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the founder of the network.
Abu Hafs al Shahri was instrumental in coordinating the anti-American plots in Pakistan, and he worked closely with the Pakistan branch of Taliban to carry out attacks, said a US official to CNN on Thursday.
"Al Shahri’s death removes a key threat inside Pakistan, where he collaborated closely with Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan to conduct coordinated attacks," said a U.S. official to a reporter from the Pakistani newspaper Express Tribune.
“Abu Hafs al Shahri’s death, will also pose a challenge for Ayman al Zawahiri" the official said.
Zawahiri is currently al Qaeda’s leader. According to the Express Tribune, the US official explained that al Shahri was a contender for the group's second in command. The previous second in command, Atiyah Abd al Rahman was purpoted to be killed in August of this year.
Younis al Mauritania, another al Qaeda operative, has been arrested by Pakistan's military in Pakistan's Quetta area on September 5. al Mauritania had been asked by bin Laden to target US pipelines, dams and oil tankers, and was responsible for planning attacks similar to the Mumbai bombings in 2008 in Europe reports CNN.
According to Michael Vicker, US undersecretary of defense for intelligence, only one of al Qaeda's top nine figures during the attacks on Sept 11 2001 are still alive, being "eliminated at a far faster rate than al Qaeda can replace them" reports CNN.
According to CIA director, David Petraeus, al Qaeda is much weaker than it was 10 years ago. Vickers has put a time frame on the terrorist network's threat, saying that its ability to continue working from its base in Pakistan could have ended in two years.
The cause of his death, which occurred earlier this week, has not been stated, reports CNN. but the United States often uses armed aerial drones to target al Qaeda members within Pakistan, and three militants were reported to have been killed in a drone attack on the 10th anniversary of September 11 2001, according to ABC news.