The senior terrorist operative killed in a drone strike Thursday in Pakistan was a top Al Qaeda planner involved in plotting attacks around the world, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official told Fox News.
The official identified the operative as Saleh al-Somali, the network's external operations chief for plots outside Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying there are “strong indications” al-Somali died.
"He was engaged in plotting throughout the world, which, given his role, probably included planning attacks against the United States and Europe," the official said. "He took strategic guidance from Al Qaeda’s top leadership and translated it into operational blueprints for prospective terrorist attacks."
The official said al-Somali had numerous contacts, including connections to other Pakistani militant groups and Al Qaeda allies in East Africa like al-Shabaab.
The official said he served as part of Al Qaeda’s “senior leadership circle.”
“He had been active in Al Qaeda's propaganda efforts for several years,” the official said.
The attack was part of the expanded use of Predator drones recently authorized by the White House, sources told Fox News, though the drone attacks, which began during the Bush Administration, never have been officially confirmed because of political sensitivity in Pakistan. Pakistan officially denied the latest attack.
Pakistani media reported that six militants were killed in the attack, including four foreign fighters — a term that typically refers to Al Qaeda.
Fox News' Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.