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Al-Qaida operative killed in drone strike

Jan. 19, 2012 at 10:53 PM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- A senior al-Qaida operations planner was among those killed in a recent drone strike in Pakistan, a U.S. official told CNN.

Aslam Awan, described as a key player with the terror group who was being tracked by the intelligence community, died Jan. 10 when a drone missile struck a compound near the town of Miranshah in Pakistan's North Waziristan, the official said.

At the time of his death, Awan was reported to have been planning attacks against the West.

"His death reduces al-Qaida's thinning bench of another operative devoted to plotting the death of innocent civilians," the official said.

The Jan. 10 incident was one of two suspected U.S. drone strikes this month, which came after an absence following the Nov. 26 NATO airstrike in a border region with Afghanistan which inadvertently killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The airstrike caused U.S.-Pakistan relations to deteriorate further.

There had been reports this month that one of the drone strikes may also have killed Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, but those reports were denied by a spokesman for the Mehsud group.

The spokesman was quoted as saying Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban called Tehrik-e-Taliban, or TTP, was alive and leading his fighters.

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