US strikes target two senior al Qaeda leaders

US strikes target two senior al Qaeda leaders
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The U.S. military targeted two top al Qaeda leaders on Sunday in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced.

“We are still assessing the results of the strikes, but their demise would represent a significant blow to the terrorist group's presence in Afghanistan, which remains committed to facilitating attacks against the United States, our allies and partners,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement late Wednesday.

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The precision strikes targeted Faruq al-Qahtani and Bilal al-Utaybi, described by the Pentagon as two of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders in Afghanistan.

Al-Qahtani was al Qaeda's emir for northeastern Afghanistan and was assigned by the group's leadership to re-establish safe havens for the group throughout the country, according to the statement.

“He was a senior planner for attacks against the United States and has a long history of directing deadly attacks against U.S. forces and our coalition allies,” Cook said.

Al-Utaybi was also involved in efforts to re-establish al Qaeda safe havens in Afghanistan, according to the statement. He also participated in efforts to recruit and train foreign fighters.

The strikes against the two were carried out “after an extensive period of surveillance,” Cook said. They happened at what was assessed to be command-and-control locations in remote areas of Kunar province.

“If these strikes are determined to be successful,” Cook said, “eliminating these core leaders of al Qaeda will disrupt efforts to plot against the United States and our allies and partners around the world, reduce the threat to our Afghan partners and assist their efforts to deny al Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan.”