ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The senior al-Qaida leader known as Abu-Zaid al-Kuwaiti was killed by a U.S. drone strike Friday as he ate breakfast in Pakistan, an Islamist Website said.
U.S. officials confirmed the news, NBC News reported. Experts said Sheik Khalid Bin Abdul Rehman Al-Hussainan was one of the top remaining leaders of al-Qaida following the death of Osama bin Laden and a possible successor to Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's deputy and successor.
"We celebrate to you the news of the martyrdom of the working scholar Shaykh Khalid al-Hussainan (Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti) while eating his Suhoor (dawn) meal, and we ask Allah to accept him in paradise," the first announcement on an Internet forum said.
Hussainan was the highest-ranking al-Qaida official to be killed by the United States since Anwar al-Awlaki in September 2011. Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, died in a drone strike in Yemen.
Evan Kohlmann, an NBC News analyst and consultant to the Justice Department, said al-Qaida now has a "big gap in the leadership."
"He was the last senior al-Qaida leader in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area who was, one, from the Arabian Peninsula and, two, who had serious clerical credentials," Kohlmann said. "Now there is no obvious publicly recognizable candidate left to succeed Zawahiri."