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NATO airstrike kills Al Qaeda's leader in Afghanistan

NATO forces have killed Al Qaeda’s second-highest leader Sakhr al-Taifi.

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In a similar strike, smoke billows from the top of a hill after US army soldiers from Bravo company 2nd Batallion 27th Infantry Regiment fired 120 mm mortar rounds towards insurgent positions at Outpost Monti in Kunar province, on September 25, 2011. (TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images)

NATO forces in Afghanistan claim to have killed Al Qaeda’s second-highest leader, Sakhr al-Taifi, in an airstrike in eastern Kunar province, according to the Associated Press.

Sakhr al-Taifi, also known as Mushtaq and Nasim, was responsible for commanding foreign insurgents in Afghanistan and directing attacks against NATO and Afghan forces. NATO described him as Al Qaeda's "second highest leader in Afghanistan." He reportedly traveled between Afghanistan and Pakistan, "carrying out commands from senior Al Qaeda leadership," according to the Telegraph.

He also supplied weapons and equipment to insurgents, and oversaw the transport of fighters into Afghanistan.

However, The New York Times reported that there are no known published references to Al-Taifi, and nobody by that name (or by Mushtaq and Nasim) appears on the official United Nations blacklist of Al Qaeda terrorists, which has several hundred names.

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Captain Justin Brockhoff, a spokesman for ISAF’s Joint Command, told The New York Times that Mr. al-Taifi had connections with Taliban leaders “and exercised influence on them." He  also said the military’s information came from “information gathered through combined intelligence gathering.”

Over the last two years, the US has worked to erode Al Qaeda's leadership ranks with drone missile strikes. In that time, the US has reported killing at least 18 senior Al Qaeda leaders and commanders, according to the LA Times.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has said he believed Al Qaeda's defeat was "within reach," the LA Times reported, though experts have cautioned against thinking that the terror network no longer poses a threat against the US or its allies. 

Al Qaeda is believed to have only a nominal presence in Afghanistan, the Washington Post noted. Most of Al Qaeda’s senior leaders are now believed to be based in Pakistan, where they fled following the US invasion. 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/afghanistan/120529/nato-airstrike-kills-al-qaedas-leader-afghanis