Two hostages killed in U.S. terror strike
02:20 - Source: CNN

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Ahmed Farouq was a leader in al Qaeda's India branch

He was killed in a U.S. counterterrorism airstrike in January

Like Adam Gadahn, Farouq was American and part of al Qaeda

CNN  — 

Ahmed Farouq didn’t have the prestige of fellow al Qaeda figure Osama bin Laden, the influence of Anwar al-Awlaki, or the notoriety of Adam Gadahn.

Still, he was a big deal.

That’s the assessment of multiple sources on a man who may not have been well-known in the West, but nonetheless had a special role in the terrorist group.

Farouq – an American – died in a U.S. counterterrorism airstrike in January, according to the White House. Two al Qaeda hostages, Warren Weinstein of the United States and Giovanni Lo Porto from Italy, were killed in the same strike, while Gadahn died in another U.S. operation that month.

Before that, Farouq was the deputy emir of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS, a branch of the Islamist extremist group that formed in recent years.

The branch made its presence known in September 2014, when militants infiltrated Pakistan’s navy and tried to hijack one of its ships, according to the SITE Institute, which monitors terror groups.

The group’s spokesman, Usama Mahmoud, on Twitter compared the Pakistani naval officers involved in the attempted hijacking to Nidal Hasan, SITE reported. Hasan is the U.S. Army psychiatrist sentenced to death for killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas.

Osama Mehmood, a spokesman for al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, said that Farouq and another top figure, Qari Abdullah Mansur, were killed in a January 15 drone strike in Pakistan’s Shawal Valley.

They were senior al Qaeda leaders, according to Mehmood.

American mouthpiece for al Qaeda killed

CNN’s Sophia Saifi contributed to this report.