PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN -
A U.S. drone strike has killed a senior al Qaeda leader in Pakistan's tribal region near the Afghan border, Pakistani intelligence officials said, in the latest blow to the Islamic militant network.
Sheik Khalid bin Abdel Rehman al-Hussainan, who was also known as Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti, was killed when missiles slammed into a house Thursday near Mir Ali, one of the main towns in the North Waziristan tribal area, the officials said.
Al-Kuwaiti appeared in many videos released by al Qaeda's media wing, Al-Sahab, and was presented as a religious scholar for the group.
Earlier this year, he replaced Abu Yahya al-Libi, al Qaeda's second in command, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan in June, the intelligence officials said. Al-Libi was a key religious figure within al Qaeda and also a prominent militant commander.
Al-Kuwaiti appeared to be a less prominent figure and was not part of the U.S. State Department's list of most wanted terrorist suspects, as al-Libi had been.
Covert CIA drone strikes have killed a series of senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Pakistan's tribal region over the past few years. The attacks are controversial because the secret nature of the program makes it difficult to determine how many civilians are being killed.
On Sunday, four drone-launched missiles blew apart a house near Miran Shah, another main town in North Waziristan, killing three suspected militants, intelligence officials said. North Waziristan has become the main hub for al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan.
Pakistani officials often criticize such strikes as a violation of the country's sovereignty, which has helped make them extremely unpopular in the country. But senior Pakistani officials are known to have cooperated with strikes in the past, and many people believe they still do.
Al Qaeda's central leadership in Pakistan has been dealt a series of sharp blows in the past few years, including the U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad last year.