The Pentagon confirmed that air strikes in Afghanistan last month killed Al-Qaeda leader Faruq al-Qatani, taking out a top plotter of attacks against the United States in a "significant blow" to the terrorist group. '
The U.S. military targeted Qatani and his lieutenant Bilal al-Utabi in separate drone strikes in Kunar Province in northeastern Afghanistan, located 230 km east of Kabul and along the border with Pakistan, on October 23.
According to the Pentagon, Qatani was al-Qaeda’s leader for northeastern Afghanistan and was tasked with re-establishing al-Qaeda safe havens in that mountainous part of the country.
But while the Pentagon has determined that Qatani, the extremist group's leader for the region, was killed, the fate of Utabi remains unclear, press secretary Peter Cook said on November 4.
Meanwhile, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) has already announced the killing of Utabi, who it identified as Qatani’s second-in-command. Also, Kunar provincial officials have said both militants were killed, along with a half dozen other militants in the strikes.
Cook said Qatani was the terrorist group's "senior plotter of attacks against the United States."
Both of the men were involved in efforts to reestablish a safe haven for Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, he said.
Based on reporting by RFE/RL, AP, Reuters, AFP, and dpa