WASHINGTON – In what could be one of the hardest blows to al-Qaida since the U.S. campaign against the terrorist organization began, the group’s No. 3, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, is believed to be dead, killed by a U.S. Predator drone, a U.S. official said Monday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said word was “spreading in extremist circles” of his death in Pakistan’s tribal areas in the past two weeks.
There were multiple postings on Jihadist websites by al-Qaida’s so-called General Command, announcing his death, according to both the IntelCenter and SITE Intelligence Group.
Al-Yazid, also known as Sheik Saeed al-Masri, was the group’s prime conduit to Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, and he was key to day-to-day control, with a hand in everything from finances to operational planning, the U.S. official said.
Aid groups suspended
KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan authorities suspended two Christian foreign aid groups on suspicion of proselytizing in the strictly Islamic nation and said a follow-up investigation would include whether other groups were trying to convert Muslims.
U.S.-based Church World Service and Norwegian Church Aid will not be allowed to operate while the allegations, aired Sunday on Afghan television, are investigated, said Mohammad Hashim Mayar, the deputy director of the Afghan government office that oversees nongovernmental organizations.
Both organizations denied the allegation.
Proselytizing is illegal in Afghanistan, as it is in many Muslim countries.
Pope takes resignation
VATICAN CITY – The Vatican said Monday that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of a senior Catholic cleric who has been accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl in Nigeria.
Archbishop Richard Anthony Burke resigned from the pastoral care of the Archdiocese of Benin City, Nigeria, the Vatican said, without elaborating on the reasons.
Earlier this year a woman in her 40s made a complaint against Burke in which she claimed he had sexually assaulted her while she was in her teens and then engaged in a 20-year affair with her.
Burke denied the allegation of child sex abuse but admitted having the affair with the woman when she was over 18.