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Sheikh Khalid Bin Abdul Rehman Al-Hussainan was seen as part of the “very top tier" of al Qaeda's remaining leaders in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden
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Senior al Qaeda Leader Killed
in Drone Strike in Pakistan

NBC News
A senior al Qaeda official and potential successor to the group’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed Friday morning in a Predator drone strike, according to reports on jihadi web forums and U.S. officials.

Sheikh Khalid Bin Abdul Rehman Al-Hussainan, aka Abu-Zaid al Kuwaiti, was killed in Pakistan while eating breakfast, according to the accounts. The 46-year-old cleric was seen as part of the “very top tier" of al Qaeda's remaining leaders in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden, according to one expert on the terror group.

The news was first announced on an al Qaeda web forum early Friday. “We celebrate to you the news of the martyrdom of the working scholar Shaykh Khalid al-Hussainan (Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti) while eating his Suhoor (dawn time) meal, and we ask Allah to accept him in paradise," a post said.

Evan Kohlmann, a counterterrorism analyst, said al-Hussainan was at the forefront of a new wave of al Qaeda leadership.

“That's a big gap in the leadership,” said Kohlmann, who is also a Justice Department consultant. “He was the last senior al Qaeda leader in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area who was, one, from the Arabian Peninsula and, two, who had serious clerical credentials. Now there is no obvious publicly recognizable candidate left to succeed Zawahiri.”

In recent years, al-Hussainan was seen in numerous al Qaeda videos offering religious training to the group’s operatives. The videos were widely circulated by al-Shabab, al Qaeda’s media wing. He also authored several books of religious thoughts.

The U.S. killed three other up-and-coming members of the terror group’s next generation leadership in the months after bin Laden was killed in a raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, by U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011. Ilyas Kashmiri, the leader of a Pakistani group associated with al-Qaeda was killed June 3. Atiyah Abd-al Rahman, bin Laden’s chief of staff, was killed on Aug. 22 and Ayman al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who was a leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was killed Sept. 30. US officials say that hints about their whereabouts were found in materials gathered by the Navy SEALs in the raid on bin Laden’s compound.

Al-Hussainan is the highest ranking al Qaeda official to be killed since those leaders were killed.


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