Al Qaeda’s leader of Indian branch killed

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A deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s branch in the Indian subcontinent, who was seen as a “rising star” in militant circles, died in an American drone strike in Pakistan in January that also killed an American and Italian hostage, according to a media report.

Ahmed Farouq was the deputy emir of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS, a local franchise started in September by the Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, ostensibly to counter Islamic State recruitment efforts.

US drone strikes, over the years, have been successful in diminishing and dispersing Al Qaeda’s top leadership and the group had put hope for new leadership on Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, the report said.

Officials said the new unit’s ability to impose itself has been constrained by drone strikes that killed at least five of its leaders, including Farouq, an American citizen.

Farouq is said to have died in the January 15 strike that killed two hostages — Warren Weinstein of the United States and Giovanni Lo Porto from Italy — the report said.

“Core Al Qaeda is a rump of its former self,” the report quoted an American counterterrorism official as saying in an assessment echoed by several European and Pakistani officials.

According to Pakistani estimates, Al Qaeda has lost 40 loyalists across ranks to American drone strikes in the past six months, a higher toll than other sources have tracked but indicative of a broader trend.

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