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A NATO air strike killed a senior al-Qaida commander in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday, while Pakistan is investigating reports that a separate CIA drone-launched missile killed the insurgents’ No. 3 commander in its territory.

The attacks could be a serious blow to the terror network’s capabilities in the region, and come as the U.S. has escalated strikes by unmanned drones in Pakistan’s volatile border region in an effort to disrupt suspected terror plots in Europe, a Western counterterrorism official said in Washington.

It wasn’t known whether the drone attacks were related specifically to a terror plot against Britain, France and Germany that European authorities said they have intercepted. The Eiffel Tower was briefly evacuated Tuesday evening after officials received a telephoned bomb threat.

NATO said the air strike in eastern Afghanistan killed Abdallah Umar al-Qurayshi, a senior al-Qaida commander who coordinated attacks by Arab fighters near the Pakistani border, along with other militants. Pakistani security officials, meanwhile, said they are investigating reports that a missile strike from a CIA drone killed Sheikh Fateh al-Masri as he traveled in a tribal region near the border.

Al-Masri is believed to have replaced Mustafa al-Yazid, who was killed in a missile strike in May, as the group’s No. 3 commander.

The United States is believed to have launched 21 drone attacks into northwestern Pakistan this month, more than double the number in any previous month.

Source: Eric Talmadge for the Associated Press.

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