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U.S. strikes more precise on al Qaeda
Question of the Day
• Abu al-Hassan al-Rimi, a leader of cross-border operations against U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.
• Abu Sulaiman al-Jaziri, a senior external operations planner and facilitator for al Qaeda.
• Abu Jihad al-Masri, al Qaeda’s senior operational planner and propagandist.
• Usama al-Kini, who was accused of planning the Marriott hotel bombing. Al-Kini was on the FBI’s terrorist most wanted list.
Pakistani officials have protested U.S. strikes as a violation of the country’s sovereignty. After a Nov. 19 attack on Bannu, a district in the North West Frontier Province, the Pakistani government summoned U.S. Ambassador Anne W. Patterson to the Foreign Ministry and lodged a formal protest.
In early December, U.S. forces based in Afghanistan carried out roughly 25 strikes against Taliban and al Qaeda camps in the border areas, most of them with pilotless craft.
Pakistani officials complained that the strikes were killing innocent people and threatened to shoot down U.S. drones.
In the past six weeks, however, Pakistan has lodged few protests and the public uproar has quieted, suggesting greater U.S. accuracy.
Corrected paragraph: Daniel L. Byman, a terrorism analyst at Georgetown University and consultant to the Sept. 11 commission, said he supported the policy of targeting al Qaeda militants but was surprised at how little controversy it has provoked in the United States.
“It is interesting that we focus much more on the people we imprison than the people we kill,” he said.
A U.S. counterterrorism official told The Times that aggressive efforts are continuing to try to locate bin Laden and other fugitives.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the terrorist organization is still a major threat to U.S. assets and the U.S. mainland.
Al Qaeda’s threats against Israel also worry counterterrorism officials who fear that the Gaza offensive is providing new ammunition for anti-U.S. propaganda and al Qaeda links to extremists in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
“Any time Israel is engaged in a conflict with Hamas or other extremist groups, al Qaeda is going to try to get in the mix to show that it remains relevant,” the U.S. official said.
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