US strike 'kills top al-Qa'ida terrorists'

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The Independent Online

Two Kenyans said to be among al-Qa'ida's top operatives on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list were killed in a US strike in Pakistan on New Year's Eve, an American official said today.

One of them, Usama al-Kini, is believed by US intelligence to be behind the September 2008 Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad and the October 2007 attack on a convoy carrying Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto. Ms Bhutto was killed in a separate attack in late 2007.

The other man killed was Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan. Both were involved in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in East Africa.

The official spoke anonymously in order to discuss sensitive US intelligence.

Al-Kini, the more senior of the two, became al-Qa'ida's top operations officer in Zabul province in Afghanistan. He then became operations chief in Somalia and the chief of operations in Pakistan, where he oversaw the hotel bombing, the official said.

The official would not describe the secret mission, but the CIA is known to operate pilotless drones that carry Hellfire missiles that have been used to strike ground targets in the lawless tribal region of Pakistan, along the border with Afghanistan.