Afghanistan

US airstrikes target top Al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

Terror group urges operative to avoid attacking minorities

 

U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan targeted two Al Qaeda leaders, including one described as the group's top leader in the country, in what the Pentagon called Thursday a "significant blow" to the terror group.

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U.S. officials told Fox News Al Qaeda was plotting attacks on the United States at the time. Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said the strikes last Sunday were "likely successful."

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook identified the two men as Faruq al-Qatani and Bilal al-Utabi.

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Cook said al-Qatani was a senior planner for attacks against the U.S. and had a hand in deadly attacks on U.S. forces. Al-Qatani had ties to Usama Bin Laden and was seeking to reestablish Al Qaeda's control over Afghanistan, a U.S. official told Fox News

The Pentagon had been searching for al-Qatani for four years. The U.S. fired multiple Hellfire missiles on each compound, apparenly "leveling" them, according to the official.

Declassified files recovered during the raid on bin Laden's compound included a slew of references to al-Qatani, the official added, saying he was deeply involved in moving Al Qaeda fighters from northern Pakistan into Afghanistan for several years.

Al-Qatani also directed the delivery of funds and weapons to Taliban associates and led Al Qaeda-sponsored training, according to the U.S. official.

The airstrikes -- from unmanned aircraft -- unfolded at roughly the same time against two separate compounds last Sunday evening, both in remote areas of Kunar Province. Two U.S. Army soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan just this month.

Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.