Key al Qaeda operative is killed

A key al Qaeda operative was killed earlier this week in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, two knowledgeable sources told CNN Friday.

They said a CIA-operated Predator drone aircraft fired a missile, killing Haithem al-Yemeni, whom U.S. intelligence had been tracking for some time.

There had been hope he might lead authorities to &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Osama bin Laden or other top al Qaeda leaders, the sources said.

ABC News first reported the Predator attack, saying it happened in Pakistan near the Afghan border. Pakistan Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad told CNN al-Yemeni was not killed in Pakistan, reports CNN News.

According to the Washington Post, l the CIA and U.S. military &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Special Operations forces have been operating inside Pakistan for more than two years with the knowledge of Pakistani authorities. But the U.S. presence is highly controversial with the largely Muslim Pakistani public, which is generally sympathetic to bin Laden and al Qaeda. For that reason, Pakistani officials routinely play down U.S.-Pakistani cooperation.

The Predator and other unmanned aerial vehicles have become some of the most successful new weapons for killing small groups of people or individuals in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Washington Post reported in February that the administration also has been flying surveillance drones over Iran for nearly a year to gather intelligence on the country's nuclear weapons program and air defenses. The drones were based at military facilities in Iraq.

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