WASHINGTON — Two Kenyans said to be among al-Qaida's top operatives on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list were killed New Year's Eve in a U.S. strike in Pakistan, a U.S. counterterrorism official said Thursday.
One of them, Usama al-Kini, is believed by U.S. intelligence to be behind the September 2008 Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad and the October 2007 attack on a convoy carrying Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. intelligence. Bhutto was killed in a separate attack in late 2007.
The other man killed was Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan. Both were believed to have been involved in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa.
Al-Kini, the more senior of the two, became al-Qaida's top operations officer in Zabul province in Afghanistan. He then became operations chief for al-Qaida in Somalia and the chief of operations in Pakistan, where he oversaw the hotel bombing, the official said.
The official would not describe the secret the mission. However, the CIA is known to operate pilotless drones that carry Hellfire missiles that have been used to strike ground targets in the lawless tribal region of Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan.
The killings of the al-Qaida operatives was first reported by The Washington Post on its Web site Thursday night.