A U.S. intelligence official says the third-ranking leader in the al-Qaida terrorist network, Sheikh Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, has been killed by a U.S. missile attack in Pakistan.

The anonymous official told U.S. news outlets intelligence officials have “strong reason” to believe Yazid, also known as Sheik Said al-Masri, was killed by an unmanned U.S. Predator drone while hiding out in the tribal areas of Pakistan.  Private intelligence agencies say his death has been announced on several Islamic radical websites.

The Egyptian-born Yazid ran al-Qaida’s activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with responsibilities ranging from finances to operational planning, and was its main conduit to Osama bin Laden.  He had been increasingly appearing in the network’s audio and video messages in recent years.

The official says Yazid’s death would be “a big victory” in terms of counterterrorism.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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