WASHINGTON (AP) - A senior al-Qaida operations planner was killed in an American missile strike this week in western Pakistan, a U.S. counterterrorism official said Friday.
Saleh al-Somali was responsible for the terror group's operations outside the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, reaching into activities in Africa, according to U.S. intelligence, and is suspected of being involved in plotting attacks against the United States and Europe, the official said. He was killed by an unmanned drone missile Tuesday, the official said.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss covert operations, said al-Somali was part of al-Qaida's senior leadership circle and had connections to other Pakistan-based extremists. His role was to take guidance from senior leaders and develop plans for prospective terrorist attacks, the official said.
Previously, al-Somali had worked in tribal areas of Pakistan with newly arrived Westerners recruited by al-Qaida.
Intelligence officials have confirmed that the pace of attacks by armed unmanned aerial vehicles, conducted largely by the CIA, has increased during the Obama administration.
The strikes have fanned anti-American sentiment in Pakistan because they have caused many civilian deaths. Since Jan. 28, 2008,
there have been at least 67 suspected U.S. missile strikes into Pakistan.