Egyptian al Qaeda leader reported killed in South Waziristan airstrike


South Waziristan Taliban leader Mullah Nazir. Click to view.

Pakistani and US intelligence are attempting to sort out the names of the al Qaeda and Taliban operatives killed in yesterday's airstrike in Azam Warzak, South Waziristan. Initial reports indicated Arabs and fighters from Central Asia were killed in the operation. One report indicates an "al Qaeda fugitive from Egypt" was among those killed, sparking rumors that Ayman al Zawahiri was the target of the strike.

South Waziristan Taliban commander Mullah Nazir, who is often characterized as a "pro-government" Taliban leader, appears to be the center of the storm. "Sources said that the militants belonged to the Abu Hamza group whose leader was said to be a follower of local militant commander Maulvi Nazir," Dawn reported. The attack occurred at the home of Shero Wazir, a follower of Nazir "who had rented it out to an Arab."

"A large number of Arabs and other foreigners had been living and doing business in the area for years with local tribal names," sources told Dawn. Nazir denied foreign al Qaeda were present in his territory, and instead claimed Afghans were occupying the home.

But Nazir has a long history of backing Arab al Qaeda members. He attacked Uzbeks in his tribal areas after he accused them of assassinating Arab al Qaeda operatives Saiful Asad and Sheikh Asadullah, a Saudi. Asadullah was one of Nazir's lieutenants and served as al Qaeda's financiers in the region. Asadullah replaced Ahmad Saeed Abdur Rehman Khadr al Kanadi, an al Qaeda operative who was killed in 2004. Kanadi was "designated by the United Nations as a high-ranking al Qaeda member."

While the identities of those killed in the latest strike in South Waziristan are still being sorted out, the nationality of some of those killed is known. Anywhere from eight to 13 al Qaeda and Taliban were reported killed in the strike. Dawn reported four Arabs, two Turkmen, and two Pakistanis from Punjab province were killed. Local Taliban cordoned the area and immediately buried the bodies, which were said to have been badly burned and mutilated.

The presence of Arab al Qaeda operatives in Azam Warzak has led to speculation that a senior al Qaeda figure may have been killed. "An al Qaeda fugitive from Egypt" was reported to have been among those killed, The Nation reported. This has raised the hopes that Ayman al Zawahiri, the Egyptian-borne second in command of al Qaeda, was among those present during the strike.

But several senior Egyptian members of al Qaeda are known to operate in Pakistan's tribal areas. These include Abu Khabab al Masri, Abu Ubaidah al Masri, Abdul Rahman al Masri al Maghribi, Abu Ikhlas al Masri, and Sheikh Essa. Abu Khabab, Abu Ubaidah, and Maghribi were believed to have been killed in the January 2006 Damadola airstrike, but the reports were false.


Egyptian al Qaeda known to be operating in Pakistan's tribal regions:

Abu Khabab al Masri: Al Qaeda's Weapons of Mass Destruction expert and master bomb maker. He is also known as Midhat Mursi.

Abdul Rahman al Masri al Maghribi: A senior al Qaeda military commander who is also believed to be Ayman al Zawahiri's son-in-law.

Abu Ubaidah al Masri: A senior al Qaeda operative who served as the former operations chief in Kunar, Afghanistan.He now serves as an al Qaeda operations chief for global strikes.

Abu Ikhlas al Masri - The current operations chief for Kunar province in Afghanistan. He and took over Kunar province after Abu Ubaidah al Masri was promoted.

Sheikh Essa: An Egyptian cleric based out of North Waziristan who advocates expanding the Taliban's jihad in Pakistan. "Local adherents of the takfiri ideology, like Sadiq Noor and Abdul Khaliq, have grown strong and spread the word in North Waziristan," the Asia Times reported on Jan. 1. "Former members of jihadi outfits such as Jaish-i-Mohammed, Laskhar-i-Taiba and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi have gathered in North Waziristan and declared Sheikh Essa their ideologue."


See Missile strike on al Qaeda meeting in South Waziristan kills 13 for background on the airstrike and past strikes in the tribal regions.



Advertisement:


READER COMMENTS: "Egyptian al Qaeda leader reported killed in South Waziristan airstrike"

Posted by Tommy at February 29, 2008 3:07 AM ET:

Fantastic news!

Who knows...maybe the 3 Al-Masri's were hanging out and we got'em all!

I read back in Jan that Sheik Essa was seriously wounded in some kind of US attack. I'm not sure if that's true or not.

But as far this strike goes, I think we're ALL praying that it's Zawahiri.

Posted by KnightHawk at February 29, 2008 4:12 AM ET:

Glad to see we (or the Pakistanis) may finally be reaching out and touching those in need of touching.

Posted by Tommy at February 29, 2008 5:17 AM ET:

According to Asia Times Online, the madrassa hit was very secretive and important. It was frequented by high-level terrorists such as Mehsud, Zawahiri, Yuldashev, and Haqqani.

Posted by EJB at February 29, 2008 7:30 AM ET:

Better yet, sounds like we have some good intel established close to the bad guys. It would be nice if they start wondering about the loyalty of the blacked turbaned guy next to them. Nothing is as discomforting to an organization and as the thought that there is a 'rat' in their midst.

Posted by David M at February 29, 2008 10:31 AM ET:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

Posted by Marlin at February 29, 2008 1:18 PM ET:

Syed Saleem Shahzad has another interesting article today. First, it wasn't just a house and second, the Pakistan military was intimately involved in the attack. Well worth the read.

The pre-dawn strike by an unmanned US Predator drone demolished a building, killing up to 12 suspected militants. Asia Times Online contacts in the area claim that the drone took off from Peshawar airfield, making it the first Pakistan-NATO military strike.

The attack came as a big surprise to militants as it was a most secret and highly important militant compound: it was disguised as a madrassa (seminary).

Asia Times: Pakistan, US raise militant tempo

Posted by Marlin at February 29, 2008 1:50 PM ET:

It would seem that the persistent Taliban/al Qaeda suicide bomb attacks on Pakistani Army targets is not winning them any friends in the military.

Pakistan's military appears to be preparing for a new tribal-area offensive against the Taliban leader blamed for the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, U.S. officials and experts say.

[...]

"The Pakistani national security establishment is looking more to push back his network, not necessarily capture-kill him," said a U.S. analyst familiar with the Pakistan army's preparations who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"They want to decrease his willingness to stand up publicly to the Pakistanis, essentially to marginalize him as a player," he said.

Reuters: US experts expect Pakistan army push in tribal area

Posted by Chris at February 29, 2008 2:33 PM ET:

I have advocated the strikes against madrassas as a strategic move at this site a few times before. My comments were always deleted for unknown reasons. Now I think I understand why. I hope that now that the strategy has been implemented that it be more frequent and aggressive. If we are to win the Long War, it is important that we continue to strike these rich targets.

Posted by thanos at February 29, 2008 3:38 PM ET:

I've updated my posts on this, B. Raman also has an opinion piece up with salient point. Still surfing for secondary confirmations.

Posted by Marlin at February 29, 2008 7:31 PM ET:

At least one newspaper has some additional follow-up information on the missile strike.

Residents said that four unidentified "guests" had arrived late Wednesday at the site, which yesterday had been cordoned off by armed militants after the missile strike.

Turkish Daily News: Missile strike kills 12 in Pakistan

Posted by Kevin at March 1, 2008 3:58 PM ET:

Another dead cut throat cave man means the world is a little safer and better than it was yesterday.

Posted by Beresford at March 1, 2008 4:30 PM ET:

Fortunately -- 13 al Qaeda sympathizers/members were located and blown to bits.

Good thing they weren't captured. If we had dripped some water on their noses there'd be hell to pay.

Posted by Marlin at March 1, 2008 10:24 PM ET:

The Nation (Pakistan) is now reporting that Adam Gadahn is still alive.

Meanwhile, the Al-Qaeda Spokesman Ahmad Salman contradicted reports regarding killing of Ezzam Al-Americee in the recent missile attack at Khushhali Toorikhel near Mirali Town of North Waziristan Agency on January 29 last.

The Spokesman said that Ezzam Al Americee is alive.

The Nation: Taliban end ceasefire