WASHINGTON – The U.S. believes Central Intelligence Agency drone attacks have killed two prominent Islamic militant figures in Pakistan affiliated with Al Qaeda, one of whom was on the U.S.'s list of top 20 targets, according to officials briefed on the matter.
One drone attack Monday is believed to have killed the leader of the Islamic Jihad Union, Najmiddin Kamolitdinovich Jalolov, an Uzbek native implicated in terrorist plots and attacks in Germany and Uzbekistan. Officials said they are almost certain he was killed, though a DNA test hasn't yet been performed.
A drone attack on Sept. 7 appeared to have killed another prominent Islamic militant, Ilyas Kashmiri, who had been briefly detained in Pakistan for alleged involvement in a 2003 assassination attempt against then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. There is less certainty about his death, however.
The two men are "solid midlevel commanders," said Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University professor who specializes in terrorism. Targeting middle-level officers is important, he said, because "when you do kill the senior commanders, there's no one to fill their shoes."
CIA drone attacks intensified in the early months of the Obama administration. A drone last month claimed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, who was believed to have been responsible for the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.