Washington: Al Qaeda`s chief of operations in Pakistan Abu Hafs al-Shahri has been killed, a senior US official said on Thursday, revealing the latest blow to the terror group`s senior leadership.
The death of Abu Hafs in a Pakistani tribal district follows the killing of al Qaeda`s number two Atiyah abd al-Rahman last month, and comes amid stepped up US drone strikes following the killing of Osama bin Laden in May.
"It has been confirmed that al Qaeda`s chief of Pakistan operations, Abu Hafs al-Shahri, was killed earlier this week in Waziristan, Pakistan," the official said on condition of anonymity.
"Abu Hafs` death will further degrade al Qaeda`s ability to recover from the death last month of al Qaeda`s number two, Atiyah, because of his operations experience and connections within the group."
"Abu Hafs` death removes a key threat inside Pakistan, where he collaborated closely with the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan to conduct co-ordinated attacks."
Security officials in Pakistan told a news agency earlier this week that a US drone strike killed at least four militants in Waziristan. It was unclear if the attack was the one which killed Abu Hafs.
In Sunday`s strike, on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, an unmanned aircraft fired two missiles, hitting a vehicle and a house in Hisokhel village in the lawless North Waziristan tribal district.
Although the US does not publicly confirm drone attacks, its military and the CIA in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy the unmanned Predator aircraft in the region.
North Waziristan is the headquarters of the Haqqani leadership and the main militant bastion in the semi-autonomous tribal belt.
The Haqqani network is considered the deadliest enemy of US troops in eastern Afghanistan.
The group has been blamed for some of the worst anti-US attacks in Afghanistan, including a suicide attack at a US base in the eastern province of Khost in 2009 that killed seven CIA operatives.
Around two dozen drone strikes have been reported in Pakistan since elite US forces killed bin Laden in a suburban home near Pakistan`s main military academy in Abbottabad, close to the capital, on May 2.
The Washington Post cited unnamed officials in July as saying that evidence taken from bin Laden`s compound suggested the al Qaeda founder was concerned about the impact drone attacks were having on his organization when he died.
Bin Laden was killed in his compound in Abbottabad in a daring raid by US special forces soldiers deep into Pakistan, and the soldiers seized large amounts of intelligence about the group`s operations.