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U.S. strike kills al Qaeda operative, official says

By CNN Senior National Security Producer Pam Benson
updated 7:40 PM EST, Thu January 19, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Aslam Awan died January 10 when a CIA-operated missile hit a compound., official says
  • Official describes Awan as a key player with al Qaeda who was plotting against West
  • Missile strike was one of two launched last week

(CNN) -- A senior al Qaeda operations planner was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan last week, according to a U.S. official.

Aslam Awan died January 10 when a CIA-operated missile slammed into a compound near the town of Miranshah in the province of North Waziristan.

The official described Awan as a key player with al Qaeda who was not known by the public but was being tracked by the intelligence community. The official said Awan was working on attacks against the West.

"His death reduces al Qaeda's thinning bench of another operative devoted to plotting the death of innocent civilians," said the American official.

The missile strike was one of two launched last week, marking the end of a seven-week pause in U.S. drone attacks after an incident in November when NATO forces in Afghanistan accidentally fired upon and killed 24 Pakistani troops operating in the border region.

Although U.S. officials deny there was an official lull in drone operations, the relationship with Pakistan has been on a down-spin over the past year after a number of high profile incidents, including the secret raid by U.S. forces on the compound that housed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

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