U.S. drone kills senior al-Qaida leader

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A U.S. drone strike has killed a senior al-Qaida leader in the tribal region near the Afghan border, Pakistani intelligence officials said, in the latest blow to the Islamic militant network.

Sheik Khalid bin Abdel Rehman al-Hussainan, also known as Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti, was killed when missiles slammed into a house Thursday near Mir Ali, one of the main towns in the North Waziristan tribal area, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Al-Kuwaiti appeared in many videos released by al-Qaida's media wing, Al-Sahab, and was presented as a religious scholar for the group.

Earlier this year, he replaced Abu Yahya al-Libi, al-Qaida's second in command, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan in June, the intelligence officials said. Al-Libi was a key religious figure within al-Qaida and a prominent militant commander.

Al-Kuwaiti appeared less prominent and was not on the U.S. State Department's list of most wanted terrorist suspects, as al-Libi had been.

Covert CIA drone strikes have killed a series of senior al-Qaida and Taliban leaders in Pakistan's tribal region over the past few years. But the attacks are controversial because the program's secrecy makes it difficult to determine how many civilians are being killed.

Pakistani officials criticize the strikes as a violation of the country's sovereignty, helping make them unpopular in the country. But senior Pakistani officials are known to have cooperated with strikes in the past, and many believe they still do.

Al-Kuwaiti's wife was wounded in Thursday's drone attack, according to the intelligence officials, and died a day later in a hospital in Miran Shah. His daughter also was wounded.

Al-Kuwaiti was buried in Tappi village near Mir Ali on Friday, the officials said.

A Pakistani Taliban commander who frequently visits North Waziristan told The Associated Press that he met some Arab fighters on Saturday who were "very aggrieved." The Arabs told him they lost a "big leader" in a drone strike.

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