US Says Strike Killed al-Qaida Figure in Afghanistan
The Pentagon said Saturday that a U.S. air strike in Afghanistan this week killed an al-Qaida militant who was responsible for the death of two American service members and accused of involvement in a deadly attack on a bus carrying Sri Lanka’s cricket team in 2009.
The Pentagon said in a statement the strike took place March 19 in Paktika province and killed Qari Yasin, “a well-known al (Qaida) terrorist leader,” who had ties to the Tehreek-e-Taliban, also known as the Pakistan Taliban.
“The death of Qari Yasin is evidence that terrorists who defame Islam and deliberately target innocent people will not escape justice,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in the statement.
Yasin, a senior terrorist figure from Balochistan, Pakistan, had ties to Tehrik-e Taliban and had plotted multiple al Qaida terror attacks, including the Sept. 20, 2008, bombing on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that killed dozens of innocent people, a Defense Department statement said.
Among those killed were U.S. Air Force Maj. Rodolfo I. Rodriguez and Navy Cryptologic Technician Third Class Petty Officer Matthew J. O’Bryant, the statement said.
On Sunday, Pakistani security sources and Islamist militants said that a U.S. drone air strike in Afghanistan had killed Yasin, also known as Ustad Aslam.
Pakistan’s Counter-Terrorism Department had offered a bounty of 2 million rupees ($19,000) for Yasin, saying he was involved in the 2009 bus attack in the northeastern city of Lahore, allegedly organized by militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
The attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team bus led to Pakistan’s exclusion from the role of hosting major international tours. At least 10 gunmen fired on the bus with rifles, grenades and rockets, wounding six players and a British coach, and killing eight Pakistanis.
Since then, Pakistan has been forced to play most of its “home” games in the United Arab Emirates.