Airstrike kills top al Qaida leader in Afghanistan, NATO says

McClatchy NewspapersApril 26, 2011 

KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S.-led NATO forces killed a top al Qaida member, Abu Hafs al Najdi, also known as Abdul Ghani, in an airstrike April 13 in the eastern province of Kunar, according to a statement the International Security Assistance Force issued Tuesday.

“The International Security Assistance Force confirmed their number two overall targeted insurgent in Afghanistan was killed during an airstrike in Dangam district, Kunar province," the statement said. Abdul Ghani was killed along with another al Qaida leader named Waqas, who was working with him to coordinate attacks on Afghan and coalition forces, the statement said.

“I do not have information about Abdul Ghani. Kunar is a border province, and there are different types of insurgents here,” Fazlullah Wahidi, the governor of Kunar, told McClatchy.

Kunar is a remote province that borders the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan, known as havens for the Taliban and their al Qaida associates. Militant attacks have increased in the province lately.

Abdul Ghani, a Saudi Arabian national, operated primarily from Kunar and traveled frequently between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the statement said. He directed al Qaida operations in the province, including recruiting; training and employing fighters; obtaining weapons and equipment; organizing finances; and planning attacks on Afghan and coalition forces.

He was responsible for coordinating numerous high-profile attacks, the statement said. On the morning of his death, he reportedly had directed a suicide attack that killed tribal elder Malik Zarin _ a supporter of President Hamid Karzai _ and nine other civilians.

Coalition troops had been looking for him since at least 2007, the statement said.

Shukoor is a McClatchy special correspondent.

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