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Top al-Qaeda leaders killed in US attack

world Updated: Nov 22, 2008 14:39 IST
al-Qaeda commanders

Rashid Rauf, terror mastermind believed to be behind 2006 trans-Atlantic plane bombing plot, and another top al-Qaeda operative were among five militants killed in a US missile attack on Saturday which hit a house of a prominent Taliban commander in Pakistan's troubled North West.

Rashid Rauf, a British-Pakistani citizen, was one of two of the suspected ringleaders of the al Qaeda London Airline Plot to destroy aircraft en route to the United States.

Rauf was killed along with another top Arab al-Qaeda commander Abu Al-Asr Al Misri and three militants when two missiles fired by a US drone scored a direct hit at the house of the local Taliban commander in Alikhel village in Mirali sub-district of North Waziristan Agency, officials told TV channels.

Rauf is a relative of Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader of the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad, who was released in exchange for hijacked Indian Airlines plane in Kandhar in Afghanistan in December 1999.

"The trans-Atlantice bombing plot alleged mastermind was killed along with an Egyptian al-Qaeda leader in the missile strike today," a top security official was quoted as saying.

Rauf escaped from Pakistani police custody in December 2007, while being in the process of being extradited to the UK to face trial.

A day after Rauf's arrest in 2006, a worldwide security alert was sounded and 24-30 suspects were detained in a major swoop. His arrest also prompted a massive security alert on London's Heathrow airport, leading to mass cancellation of flights for several days for fear of terror attack.

Local Taliban cordoned off the area around the house targeted and did not allow people to approach it leading to corroboration of reports that the missiles had killed top al-Qaeda commanders.