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Carter: US airstrike kills senior Al-Qaida commander

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, center, stands with Col. Otto Liller, commander, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), second from right, as he observes Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service forces participate in a training exercise at the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service Academy on the Baghdad Airport Complex in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, July 23, 2015. Carter is on a weeklong tour of the Middle East focused on reassuring allies about Iran and assessing progress in the coalition campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)n

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Friday that a U.S. airstrike recently killed a senior Al-Qaida operational commander in eastern Afghanistan.

The airstrike killed Abu Khalil Al-Sudani on July 11, Carter said in a brief statement given to reporters traveling with him in Iraq.

Carter called Al-Sudani a senior shura member and head of Al-Qaida suicide and explosive operations, and said he is directly linked to plots to attack the United States.

He said Al-Sudani also directed operations against coalition, Afghan and Pakistani forces, and maintained a close association with Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al-Qaida.

Carter added that two other “violent extremists” were killed in the airstrike. He did not name the two others.

The strike was in the Bermal district of Paktika province, which borders Pakistan.

A U.S. military official in Kabul said that Al-Sudani had also been close to Osama bin Laden before his death, and had fought alongside bin Laden in the 10-year anti-Soviet war that followed the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The official spoke on the condition that he not be identified because he was not authorized to provide the information.

“Al-Sudani was directly linked to external attack plotting against the United States and directed operations against the coalition, Afghan and Pakistani forces,” the official said.

“The death of al-Sudani will further degrade Al-Qaeda command-and-control operations across the globe,” he said.

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Associated Press Writer Lynne O’Donnell contributed to this story from Kabul, Afghanistan

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