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Terrorism & Security

CIA director says Al Qaeda on the run as a leader killed in US drone strike

As CIA Director Leon Panetta said recent attacks have crippled Al Qaeda and its leadership, officials announced that a drone attack killed an Al Qaeda member involved in the December attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan.

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The Washington Post reports that it was believed the strike was the first in a heavily populated urban area, and targeted a building where many Al Qaeda militants were building bombs. Mr. Panetta told the Post, without mentioning the March 8 airstrike specifically, that such strikes send a “very important signal that they are not going to be able to hide in urban areas.”

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Drone strikes, which have increased during the Obama administration, have incited anger from Pakistan’s public because of the civilian casualties they cause. A counterterrorism official called the strike that killed Yemeni a "clean, precise action that shows these killers cannot hide even in relatively built-up places," the Los Angeles Times reported.

Panetta also told the Post that the US war against Al Qaeda in Pakistan, which is conducted largely through airstrikes from unmanned aerial drones, was hampering Al Qaeda’s ability to attack targets outside Pakistan and Afghanistan and eliminating its leaders.

So profound is Al Qaeda's disarray that one of its lieutenants, in a recently intercepted message, pleaded with bin Laden to come to the group's rescue and provide some leadership, Panetta said. He credited improved coordination with Pakistan's government and what he called "the most aggressive operation that CIA has been involved in in our history," offering a near-acknowledgment of what is officially a secret war.

"Those operations are seriously disrupting Al Qaeda," Panetta said. "It's pretty clear from all the intelligence we are getting that they are having a very difficult time putting together any kind of command and control, that they are scrambling. And that we really do have them on the run."

CNN reports that the message Panetta referenced was from Al Qaeda members who were asking Osama bin Laden to take a more visible leadership role. Panetta said in the Post interview that the US onslaught against Al Qaeda has forced the leader underground. According to CNN, Al Qaeda foot soldiers are unhappy with that.

Osama bin Laden is "rarely seen, rarely heard," the official said, and that is "troubling" to those who see him as their leader. "There are strong indications that some Al Qaeda terrorists would like Bin Laden to take a higher profile," the official said.

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