7 Dec 2014

Al-Qaeda loses second key member in as many days

Omar Farooq dies in a drone strike a day after another senior member of the Islamist terror network is shot dead by the Pakistani military.

North Waziristan (Reuters)

Farooq, a 38-year-old former religious teacher, joined al-Qaeda after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and was said to have been close to Osama bin Laden and the organisation’s current head, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

He helped organise the group’s operations and finances in Pakistan and helped direct attacks against Nato troops. A Pakistani official said Farooq, who also used the first name Ustad, was in charge of al-Qaeda’s media department for the region.

“He has been key in pushing al Qaeda to focus on South Asia and helped evolve al Qaeda’s South Asia policy and specifically its anti-India activities. It was on his advice that al-Qaeda officially declared the Pakistan army an apostate army,” the official said.

“He is the first Pakistani to be appointed to a senior-level position in al-Qaeda,” a military official told Reuters.

Farooq died on Sunday when a US drone hit a house in Khar Tangi village in Datta Khel, North Waziristan, the mountainous region bordering Afghanistan.

Military sources said at least three other suspected militants also died in the strike.

The attack came a death after Pakistani forces killed al-Qaeda leader Adnan el-Shukrijumah. The FBI had pit a $5m reward on his head over his alleged involvement in a plot to blow up New York’s subway system.

US drone strikes against Pakistani Taliban forces in Afghanistan have also stepped up in recent weeks, the Taliban said.

The strikes stopped for the first six months of the year while the Pakistani government held peace talks with the Taliban.

But the talks failed and the strikes resumed days before the military announced a major anti-Taliban offensive in North Waziristan in June.

Military officials say they have killed more than 1,000 militants in the fighting so far, but independent reports are rare.