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U.S.: Senior al Qaeda planner likely killed

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Strong indications" Saleh al-Somali was killed in a missile strike earlier this week
  • "He was engaged in plotting throughout the world," official says
  • Al-Somali took strategic guidance from al Qaeda's "top leadership," official says
RELATED TOPICS
  • Al Qaeda
  • Pakistan

Washington (CNN) -- A U.S. counterterrorism official says there are "strong indications" a senior al Qaeda operation planner, Saleh al-Somali, was killed in a missile strike earlier this week.

Al-Somali was responsible for al Qaeda's operations outside the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and maintained relationships with the terrorist group's allies in east Africa, including al-Shabaab, the official said Friday.

"He was engaged in plotting throughout the world. Given his central role, this probably included plotting attacks against the United States and Europe," the official said.

Al-Somali took strategic guidance from al Qaeda's "top leadership" and "translated it into operational blueprints for prospective terrorist attacks," the official said.

"Al-Somali was part of al Qaeda's core leadership cadre, and he maintained connections to other Pakistan-based extremists. He had been very involved in al Qaeda's propaganda operations and worked with Western al Qaeda recruits upon their arrival in the tribal areas of Pakistan," the official said.

Earlier, a U.S. official said American intelligence officials believe a senior al Qaeda operative was killed in a strike carried out by an unmanned drone in Pakistan.

CNN's Pam Benson contributed to this report.

 
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