A Saudi-American accused of plotting to bomb the New York City subway system was killed in a pre-dawn army attack in a remote al-Qaida terrorist hideout, Pakistani officials said.
Helicopter gunships targeted Adnan el Shukrijumah in the lawless region of South Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan, Pakistani officials said. He had moved there recently after escaping another Pakistani military operation in the neighboring North Waziristan region, they said. Two of his men were also killed in the attack, the officials said.
The military said that, in an operation based on intelligence information, “top al-Qaida leader Adnan el Shukrijumah was killed by [the] Pakistan Army in an early morning raid in Shinwarsak, South Waziristan today.
“His accomplice and local facilitator were also killed in the raid,” the statement added. A Pakistani soldier also was killed in the operation, it said.
Shukrijumah, a member of al-Qaida’s leadership, was believed to be in charge of all of the terror network’s external operations. The Saudi-born Shukrijumah, who is in his late 30s, would be the highest ranking al-Qaida member to be killed by the Pakistani military.
The FBI launched a global manhunt for Shukrijumah in 2003, offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest. U.S. officials at the time described him as an “imminent threat to U.S. citizens and interests,” adding that he was possibly as significant an organizer of terrorist acts as Mohamed Atta, the suspected ringleader of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Shukrijumah was identified as a key al-Qaida operative by Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the senior planner for the terror network. A naturalized U.S. citizen who lived in New York and South Florida, Shukrijumah fled the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks.
According to U.S. officials, he may have traveled on passports from Guyana, Saudi Arabia, Trinidad or Canada. He spoke fluent English with hardly an accent, and was able to blend in to Western cultures easily.
Shukrijumah trained with al-Qaida in Afghanistan before the Sept. 11 attacks, according to U.S. officials. He also met with Jose Padilla, the American accused of planning to detonate a radiological bomb in the United States.
In 2010, Shukrijumah was charged in a failed plot to blow up the New York subway system the previous year. At the time, prosecutors described the plot as the most significant threat to New York since the Sept. 11 attacks.