Abu Jihad al Masri. Photo from the Rewards for Justice website.
Reports from Pakistan indicate a senior al Qaeda leader was killed in yesterday’s airstrike in North Waziristan.
Mohammad Khalil Hasan al Hakaymah, who is better known as Abu Jihad al Masri, is thought to have been killed in an airstrike that targeted a vehicle outside of Mir Ali in North Waziristan, AFP reported.
“The strike was aimed at a vehicle carrying Abu Jihad and two others,” senior Pakistani security official told AFP. “The target was successfully hit and all three people were killed.”
US intelligence has yet to confirm Abu Jihad’s death. Abu Kasha, an al Qaeda operative who facilitates the group’s external operations against the West, is also thought to have been killed in a separate attack that targeted a compound operated by a low-level Taliban operative in North Waziristan. Reports indicate Abu Kasha may have escaped the attack.
The strike in North Waziristan followed an attack on South Waziristan that targeted Tahir Yuldalshev, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and Taliban commander Mullah Nazir. Nazir has been reported to have been wounded, while it is unclear if Yuldashev was at the scene of the strike.
Abu Jihad is a senior member of al Qaeda. He merged the Egyptian Islamic Group (Al Gamaa Al Islamiya) with al Qaeda and serves as the group’s leader. This places him on al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, the senior council of al Qaeda leaders. The US government has $1 million reward for the capture of Abu Jihad.
Abu Jihad is considered the chief of al Qaeda’s intelligence branch and directs al Qaeda’s intelligence shura. He directs external operations, largely in Egypt. He is also a prolific writer and a major ideologue for the terror group.
Emir of the Egyptian Islamic Group
Abu Jihad became the emir, or leader, of the Egyptian Islamic Group after appearing on a videotape with Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second in command, in November 2006. On the tape, Abu Jihad swore an oath of allegiance to Osama bin Laden and announced the merger of the Egyptian Islamic Group and al Qaeda.
The announcement caused a split within the Egyptian Islamic Group. Abu Jihad’s faction, which largely consists of members of the Egyptian Islamic Group who live outside Egypt, rejected statements by Sayyid Imam al Sharif, the groups’ founder. Sharif, who is better known as Dr. Fadl, issued a series of fatwas, or religious edicts, that rejected al Qaeda’s tactics in waging jihad. Fadl’s supporters are largely inside of Egypt and have denounced conducting attacks on the state.
As the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Group, Abu Jihad also sits in on al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis. He directs the group with Mohammed Islambouli, the brother of the assassin who killed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.
Aside from leading the Egyptian Islamic Group, Abu Jihad also directs al Qaeda’s intelligence shura. He is said to excel in directing intelligence operations. Abu Jihad has established an underground network inside the Egyptian jail system and has evaded detection by Egypt’s ruthless security services several times to pull off attacks.
Abu Jihad has also written al Qaeda’s first attempt to understand US intelligence capabilities and intentions. The Myth of Delusion was published at The Upholders of the Covenant, Abu Jihad’s website.
The Center for Combating Terrorism at West Point described The Myth of Delusion as an “exhaustively researched dissertation on the structure, practices, and weaknesses of the US intelligence community.”
“It highlights the community’s historical mistakes and contemporary weaknesses in order to demonstrate that al Qaeda can successfully operate against the US,” the Center for Combating Terrorism stated.
Abu Jihad has been described as one of al Qaeda’s external operation leaders. Egypt is his primary theater of operations, a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.
He is responsible for several terror attacks inside Egypt since 2004. The attacks were timed to kill as many vacationers as possible and cripple Egypt’s tourism industry.
The first attack traced back to Abu Jihad is the Oct. 9, 2004 multiple suicide bombings at the Red Sea resort of Taba which is popular with Israeli vacationers. A car bomb destroyed the Taba Hilton, while other attacks occurred at campgrounds near by. Thirty-four people were killed and more than 150 were wounded.
The second attack, or series of attacks, occurred in Cairo in April 2005. Two bombings and a shooting incident resulted in three killed and 22 wounded.
The third attack occurred in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh on July 23, 2005. Suicide car bombers struck in a market and at a hotel, killing 88 and wounding more than 200. The attack occurred on Egypt’s Revolution Day.
Abu Jihad has also written extensively on organization, military doctrine, tactics, and strategy. In a Feb. 12, 2007 statement released on his website, Abu Jihad called for all Muslims to wage war against the West, whether they are members of al Qaeda or not. He outlined how members should go about setting up a terror cell, saying that eventually the cell would be absorbed into al Qaeda. He then outlined the methods for recruiting, establishing a shura and leadership, maintaining operational security, choosing a leader, obtaining financing, choosing and scouting targets, and conducting strikes.
He also provided support for al Qaeda-linked Fatah al Islam after the Lebanese military attacked their bases in the Nahr al Bared Palestinian refugee camp during the summer of 2007. Abu Jihad sent both fighters and cash to support Fatah al Islam’s operations. He also posted a statement of support for al Qaeda in Iraq on his website.
Aside from running the Egyptian Islamic Group and serving as both an intelligence and operational commander, Abu Jihad serves as an ideologue and propagandist.
During 2007 Abu Jihad wrote three lengthy replies to Dr. Fadl’s November 2007 book that rejected al Qaeda’s methods and characterized jihadis as “mercenaries.” Fadl is the former leader and chief ideologue of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. He was a mentor to Ayman al Zawahiri and one of his books served as a guide for al Qaeda and other jihadist groups. Fadl’s rejection of al Qaeda’s methods sent shockwaves through the jihadi community.
Abu Jihad maintained that Fadl’s retraction was a result his being tortured by Egyptian security forces while in prison. In a statement released in December 2007, Abu Jihad described Fadl’s fatwa as a “dose of his anger on his mujahideen brothers outside in compliance with the advice of the US RAND Corporation and the orders of the FBI office in Cairo.”
Sheltered in Iran
Abu Jihad was one of the many al Qaeda leaders and operatives who sought shelter in Iran after the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in early 2002. He is believed to have left Iran and entered Pakistan’s tribal areas in 2005 or 2006.
Scores of senior and mid-level al Qaeda operatives are known to be based out of Iran. Senior al Qaeda leaders known to be inside Iran include Saif al Adel, al Qaeda’s senior strategist who is said to be third in command of al Qaeda; Suleiman Abu Ghaith, the former spokesman for bin Laden; Abu Hafs, al Qaeda’s director of personnel; Sheikh Said al Masri, bin Laden’s chief financier; Mafouz Ould Walid, a senior aide to bin Laden and the leader of the Mauritanian Group for Preaching and Jihad; Thirwat Saleh Shihata; Ayman al Zawahiri’s deputy; and Abu Dahak, al Qaeda’s liaison to Chechen-based terrorists.
Iran claims the al Qaeda leaders are in custody and are prevented from carrying out terrorist activity, but no charges have been brought against the terrorists. Attempts to have the terrorists extradited to their home countries have been rebuffed.
Al Qaeda leaders are not merely in custody as their leaders are still able to conduct operations. Saif al Adel is said to have “struck up a close personal relationship with several prominent [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps] commanders.” He personally ordered the bombing attack against US assets in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2003. Five Americans were killed in the attack. He has written numerous strategy documents from Iran, including a seven-phase plan to conquer the world by 2020.
In a biography, Abu Jihad admitted entering Iran after fleeing from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Pakistani intelligence was rounding up Arabs sheltering in the tribal areas. “Afterwards we were forced to enter Iranian territory to arrange the affairs of the Arab families who were pursued by the authorities in Pakistan,” he said. “We made an agreement with the smugglers on the Pakistani-Iranian border.”
Abu Jihad admitted to traveling to Iran with former al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi. “Many of the brothers arrived in Iran,” he said. “On this trip I traveled with Shaykh Abu Musab al Zarqawi, may he rest in peace, who was planning to find a way to get his group into Iraq via the Iranian border.” He claimed he and other leaders were arrested by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, placed in custody, and housed in a hotel. He then claimed he escaped from the hotel.
In 2007, he denied operating out of Iran and blamed “Egyptian Intelligence and everyone who rotates around its orbit for spreading ‘false statements.'” But in his biography he admitted that “arranged” for his family “to stay in one Sunni Iranian town.”