WASHINGTON — An al-Qaida leader believed to have played a key role in bombing a CIA post in Afghanistan last December was apparently killed by an American missile strike last week, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.
The counterterrorism official said Hussein al-Yemeni was believed killed in a strike in Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.
Drone strikes in Pakistan’s border region, largely conducted by the CIA, have escalated in recent months, proving an effective way to target al-Qaida and Taliban leaders hiding in the rugged mountainous border. While Pakistani officials have criticized the strikes, it is widely believed that Islamabad privately supports the attacks and works with the U.S. to provide intelligence.
Al-Yemeni is considered an important al-Qaida planner and explosives expert who had established contact with groups ranging from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to Afghan and Pakistani Taliban militant groups.
The counterterrorism official said al-Yemeni was in his late 20s or early 30s and was a conduit in Pakistan for funds, messages, and recruiting but that he specialized in suicide operations.
A jihadist Web site linked to al-Qaida recently announced his death, said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who now is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center.
“This is another sign that drone operations and stepped-up efforts against al-Qaida are having an impact in the tribal regions,” Riedel said Wednesday. He said al-Yemeni served prison time in Yemen in 2005 before being released and has since moved through Afghanistan and Iran and was a trainer for the Taliban.
In the CIA base attack, a Jordanian suicide bomber killed seven CIA employees and a Jordanian intelligence officer. The bomber, a Jordanian doctor identified as Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, detonated his cache of explosives at Camp Chapman, a tightly secured base in Khost.
CIA officials has cultivated al-Balawi in hopes of obtaining information about al-Qaida’s second in command, but he turned out to be a double agent. In a video broadcast after his death, the bomber said the attack was meant to avenge the death of the former Pakistani Taliban leader