Drone Strike Victim ID'd as Top al-Qaeda Strategist
Identity unclear, but he's not Osama
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2009 4:21 PM CST
In this May 4, 2002 file photo provided by the U.S. Air Force, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter prepares to land and pick up members of a coalition force in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock, File)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – A drone missile strike in Pakistan killed a top al-Qaeda operative earlier this week, but the victim's identity remains unclear. Earlier reports said the slain terrorist leader was Abu Yahya al-Libi, the organization's No. 3, who escaped from US custody at the Bagram Air Force in 2005. But other reports say the dead man is the less prominent Saleh al-Somali.

Though Somali was lower in stature, his death may prove more beneficial to the US effort in Afghanistan: he was allegedly responsible for al-Qaeda's operations in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region. His job was to take guidance from senior leaders and "translate it into operational blueprints for prospective terrorist attacks," a US official tells CBS News.