Co-presented by

Al-Qaeda leader Qari Yasin, linked to 2009 attack on Sri Lankan cricket team, killed in US drone strike

A senior Al-Qaeda commander linked to major attacks in Pakistan, including the bombing of a luxury hotel and an assault on a cricket team was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said on Saturday.

Qari Yasin, a member of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan group, was killed on 19 March in Afghanistan's eastern Paktika province, the Pentagon said.

"The death of Qari Yasin is evidence that terrorists who defame Islam and deliberately target innocent people will not escape justice," Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement.

 Al-Qaeda leader Qari Yasin, linked to 2009 attack on Sri Lankan cricket team, killed in US drone strike

Representational image. Reuters

Yasin, who also went under the alias Ustad Aslam, was accused of plotting the 20 September, 2008 bombing at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that killed dozens of people.  The victims included two American service members, Air Force Major Rodolfo I Rodriguez of El Paso, Texas, and Navy Cryptologic Technician 3rd Class Petty Officer Matthew J O'Bryant of Theodore, Alabama, US officials said.

He was also said to have been behind a 2009 attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore that killed six Pakistani police officers and two civilians, and wounded six members of the team.

According to Hindustan Times, Sri Lankan cricketeres Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Ajantha Mendis, Thilan Samaraweera, Tharanga Paranavitana and Chaminda Vaas were injured in the attack.

A convoy of buses and security vehicles carrying them to the stadium for the third day of a Test match was attacked by 10 terrorists armed with AK-47 assault rifles and explosives, who had then escaped in autorickshaws, according to Hindustan Times.

Reuters reported that the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team bus led to Pakistan's exclusion from the role of hosting major international tours. Since then, Pakistan has been forced to play most of its "home" games in the United Arab Emirates.

The Pentagon's confirmation comes a few days after the Pakistan Taliban confirmed that Yasin had been killed in a US drone strike.

Describing Yasin as a "close assistant" of the Pakistani Taliban, spokesman of the outfit Mohammad Khurasani said the senior Al-Qaeda leader was a "trainer of Mujahideen". Three of Yasin's "companions" were also killed in the US drone strike, he said.

The US had been hunting Yasin for at least four years, according to Long War Journal.

According to official Pakistani 'most wanted' lists Yasin was also behind failed attempts to kill former president Pervez Musharraf in 2003 and former prime minister Shaukat Aziz in 2004.

The Pentagon described him as being a native of Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan region, though Pakistani records said he hailed from the country's populous Punjab province.

Security analyst Amir Rana said Yasin was the latest in a series of Pakistani militant fugitives to have been killed across the border in Afghanistan, including Qari Saifullah Akhtar, a former close associate of Mullah Omar, who died in a clash with Afghan security forces in January.

"He was once a senior figure and one of the Pakistani Taliban's few non-Pashtun leaders," said Rana, but added that Yasin had fallen inactive in recent years after fleeing to Afghanistan.

The killing of Yasin in eastern Afghanistan lends credence to Pakistani claims that its militant enemies have found sanctuaries there. The neighboring countries Afghanistan and Pakistan routinely charge each other with harboring the other's enemies.

Relations deteriorated earlier this year after a series of attacks in Pakistan that killed 125 people led Islamabad to close its border with Afghanistan for more than one month.

The two countries have exchanged lists of insurgents hiding out on the other's soil and Afghanistan has also given Pakistan the locations of 23 sanctuaries where its Taliban militants are hiding. Kabul is demanding they be closed.

Taliban fighters on Thursday captured Afghanistan's strategic southern district of Sangin, where US and British forces had suffered heavy casualties before it was handed over to Afghan personnel.

The Taliban effectively control or contest 10 of 14 districts in Helmand, the deadliest province for British and US troops over the past decade, blighted by a huge opium harvest that helps fund the insurgency.

The Pentagon has said it would deploy some 300 Marines this spring to Helmand, where American forces had engaged in heated combat until they pulled out in 2014.

The Marines will assist a NATO-led mission to train Afghan forces, in the latest sign that foreign forces are increasingly being drawn back into the mounting conflict.

According to Reuters, 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.

With inputs from agencies

Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.

Updated Date: Mar 27, 2017 13:15:01 IST