From Yoshita Singh New York, Apr 25: 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, the report in the New York Times said.
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.
Farouq was "apparently seen as a rising star in militant circles for some time," the report said, citing a 2010 letter to Osama bin Laden that had singled out a militant of the same name as having potential leadership potential. "A good man," wrote Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, a senior Qaeda leader who was killed in a drone strike in 2011, of Farouq.
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.
CNN reported that Farouq "was a big deal" and had a special role in the terrorist group. The Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent made its presence known in September 2014, when militants infiltrated Pakistan's navy and tried to hijack one of its ships, according to the SITE Institute, which monitors terror groups.
The CNN report quoted Osama Mehmood, a spokesman for Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, as saying that Farouq and another top figure, Qari Abdullah Mansur, were killed in a January 15 drone strike in Pakistan's Shawal Valley.