Pakistan kills top Al-Qaeda leader: military

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's military said Saturday it had killed a senior Al-Qaeda leader wanted by the US over a 2009 plot to attack the New York subway system.

"In an intelligence borne operation top Al-Qaeda leader Adnan El Shukrijumah was killed by Pakistan Army in an early morning raid in Shinwarsak, South Waziristan today," the military said.

Shukrijumah, one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists, was hiding in a compound in Shinwarsak, northwestern Pakistan, after fleeing from neighbouring North Waziristan tribal district where the army launched a major operation against militant bases in June, the military said.

"His accomplice and local facilitator were also killed in the raid," it added.

Saudi-born Shukrijumah is described by the FBI as "one of the leaders of Al-Qaeda's external operations programme" and is wanted in connection with an attempt to blow up the New York subway in 2009, as well as for plots connected to targets in the United Kingdom. The FBI has a $5 million reward available for information leading to his arrest.

Pakistan military spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa said in a tweet that five "terrorists" were also arrested during the raid.

"The intelligence had been working on the whereabouts and movements of Shukrijumah for about five to six years," a senior Pakistani security official told AFP.

Local intelligence official and residents said that authorities had sealed all entry points to South Waziristan and shut down phone networks before the raid.

The operation started late Friday and residents in Wana, a main town in South Waziristan, some 15 kilometres east of Shinwarsak, heard the gun fire and helicopters' movements.

"Two Pakistani helicopters as well as four drones had been flying very low in the area since early morning and then gunfire continued for several hours," a tribesman in the neighbouring Azam Warsak village told AFP.

It was not immediately clear if the drones were part of the US's covert drone programme, which usually target Taliban militants in Pakistan's tribal areas.

He said that there were also reports of militants from the Haqqani network, which is aligned with the Afghan Taliban, in the area where the raid took place.

The semi-autonomous tribal areas that border Afghanistan have for years been a hideout for Islamist militants of all stripes -- including Al-Qaeda and the homegrown Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as well as foreign fighters such as Uzbeks and Uighurs.

Washington pressed Islamabad for years to wipe out the sanctuaries in the North Waziristan tribal area, which militants have used to launch attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani military launched a major offensive in North Waziristan in June and say they have killed more than 1,100 militants so far, with 100 soldiers losing their lives in the operation.