By MATTHEW COLE
A senior Al Qaeda commander in Afghanistan was killed by a U.S. airstrike while he met with four other top insurgents, according to a statement from the U.S.-led military coalition, ending a four-year hunt.
Abu Hafs Al Najdi was killed in Kunar province during an April 13 airstrike, said the International Security Assistance Force ( ISAF) in a statement. According to the ISAF, "numerous other insurgents," including another Al Qaeda leader named Waqas, were also killed during the attack in Kunar's Dangam district, close to the Pakistani border.
Al Najdi, a Saudi citizen who also went by the name Abdul Ghani, was a key figure for Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization inside Afghanistan, according to the ISAF, and number two on the coalition's list of Al Qaeda targets.
Al Najdi was said to be responsible for "recruiting; training and employing fighters; obtaining weapons and equipment; organizing al Qaeda finances; and planning attacks against Afghan coalition forces," according to the coalition.
The Saudi commander was also said to be responsible for a December attack on a U.S. outpost last December. The statement did not say if any soldiers were injured in the attack.
Kunar province has seen some of the deadliest fighting for American soldiers since the Afghan war began in 2001. U.S. forces recently closed many of their outposts and bases in Kunar and neighboring Nuristan provinces because military officials believed the area was too remote to manage. Some reports have described a resurgence of Arab Al Qaeda fighters in Kunar and Nuristan since U.S. troops withdrew.
U.S. officials had stated as recently as last year that no more than 100 al Qaeda fighters operated in Afghanistan. In its statement announcing Al Nadji's death, the ISAF said he was one of "more than 25 al Qaeda leaders and fighters" who have been killed in Afghanistan in the past month.