Bin Laden deputy killed in air strikes

War on Terrorism: Al-Qa'ida
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Osama bin Laden's senior military planner, one of the men blamed by the British and American governments for planning the 11 September attacks, has been killed in US air strikes on Afghanistan.

Mohammed Atef, described variously as Mr bin Laden's right-hand man, chosen successor and senior military planner, was among a number of senior Taliban and al-Qa'ida leaders killed when US missiles struck a house close to Kabul on Tuesday.

Mullah Najibullah, a Taliban official in the southeast Afghan border town of Spinboldak, today confirmed Mr Atef's death but would not identify the location of the air strike or the seven al-Qa'ida members who died with him.

The Mullah also told the Associated Press that bin Laden was alive.

Mr Atef, a former Egyptian policeman, has long been identified as a senior member of al-Qa'ida – possibly as high in the organisation as second in command. Included on the FBI's "Most Wanted" list, Mr Atef once said about the US: "They are only human beings, whose power has been exaggerated because of their huge media and the control they exert over the world's media."

US prosecutors have accused Mr Atef of commanding the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and of encouraging attacks on US troops in Somalia in 1993.

Also known as Abu Hafs al-Masri, Mr Atef was wanted in his native Egypt for the 1990 murder of the parliament speaker Rifaat al-Mahgoub. He was a member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the group that killed President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

Earlier this year, one of his daughters married one of Mr bin Laden's sons – cementing further the relationship between the two men.