ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A missile attack from a remotely piloted U.S. aircraft is believed to have killed a senior member of Al-Qaida in South Waziristan on Thursday, a former member of a militant group in the region said in an interview.
The operative, Khalid Habib, an Egyptian who was chief of operations in Pakistan’s tribal region, is described by the CIA as the fourth-ranking person in the Qaida hierarchy.
The attack, on the village of Taparghai, killed four people, some of them Arabs, according to initial reports Thursday.
A Pakistani intelligence official declined Friday to confirm the death of Habib. A U.S. official involved in the campaign against Al-Qaida in Pakistan’s tribal areas said he could not confirm the report that Habib had died. It often takes U.S. officials some time to determine the success or failure of attacks by remotely piloted aircraft in the rugged and remote terrain of the tribal areas.
Habib recently moved to Taparghai from Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, which is in an area that the Americans have been attacking with increasing frequency. Their primary goal is to break the militant network there related to Sirajuddin Haqqani, a Taliban leader closely allied to Al-Qaida, the former member of the militant group said.
Habib had relocated to Taparghai expressly to avoid missile strikes, the former militant said. The area around Taparghai is near Makin, a base of Baitullah Mehsud, the chief of the Pakistani Taliban.
Habib was in a parked Toyota four-by-four when he was hit by the missile.