Photo by Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images.
NATO forces announced Tuesday that U.S.-led forces killed al-Qaida's second-highest ranking leader in Afghanistan over the weekend.
According to the military alliance, Saudi-born Sakhr al-Taifi had led insurgent attacks against NATO and coalition forces and is believed to have frequently traveled between Afghanistan and Pakistan to carry out commands from senior al-Qaida leaders. He and another militant were killed during an airstrike in an eastern Pakistan-bordering province on Sunday.
While NATO officials say that al-Taifi was the terrorist group's no. 2 man in Afghanistan, the New York Times points out that not only is this the first time he's been referred to as such in public, it appears as though this is the first time he's been referred to at all:
"[T]here are no known published references to Mr. Taifi, and nobody by that name (or by two pseudonyms given by the military, Mushtaq and Nasim) appears on the official United Nations blacklist of Qaeda terrorists, which has several hundred names."
While most of al-Qaida’s senior leaders are thought to be in Pakistan, Osama Bin Laden is believed to have urged his followers to seek a safe haven in the rougher terrain of the Pakistan-bordering Kunar province, where al-Taifi was killed. "[I]ts rougher terrain; too many mountains, rivers, and trees that can accommodate hundreds of brothers without being spotted by the enemy,” Bin Laden wrote before he was killed in Pakistan last year, the Associated Press notes.
Sunday's strike was the latest in a string of successful ones led by U.S. forces. The Los Angeles Times explains U.S. drone missile strikes have killed at least 18 senior al-Qaida leaders, as well as a handful of Taliban commanders, in the past two years.
NATO officials say that no civilians were harmed and that no civilian property was damaged in Sunday's precision airstrike. (You can read the official statement here.) Meanwhile, NATO is launching an inquiry into a different airstrike in Pakita province which is said to have killed eight civilians on Saturday.