The US killed a key al Qaeda military leader based in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan during an airstrike on Feb. 17.
Sheikh Mansoor was killed in a Predator attack that targeted a Taliban compound in the village of Tapi near Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan. Two other “militants” were initially reported killed in the airstrike; it is not currently known if there were any other senior al Qaeda or Taliban operatives killed. Dawn News reported that the airstrike “left number of other important militants killed.”
Both Geo News and Dawn reported that a funeral was held for Mansoor, and that Mohammed Haqqani, a mid-level Haqqani Network military commander and brother of the group’s top military commander Siraj Haqqani, was killed by another drone strike while preparing to attend Mansoor’s burial on Feb. 18.
US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said they believe Sheikh Mansoor was killed in the attack on Feb. 17.
“We’re pretty sure that Mohammed Haqqani was killed while going to Sheikh Mansoor’s burial,” an intelligence official said. “We were gunning for Siraj but got his little brother instead. It is still a good kill; the Haqqanis are dangerous and Mohammed was involved in the family business.”
Sheikh Mansoor was a commander in al Qaeda’s Lashkar al Zil, or the Shadow Army, US officials said. He was based in North Waziristan but carried out attacks against US and Afghan forces across the border in Afghanistan.
Mansoor’s family has a pedigree in jihad. His father was Ahmed Said Al Khadr, an al Qaeda operative who was killed in October 2003, Geo Newsreported. Khadr, who is also known as Abdul Rehman Khadr al Kanadi, was born in Cairo, Egypt, but was a Canadian national.
Khadr was a close confidant of Osama bin Laden, who invited Kanadi to join the Shura Majlis, the top leadership council, after the US invasion of Afghanistan. Khadr was tasked with helping al Qaeda families escape into Pakistan. He was also close to South Waziristan Taliban leader Mullah Nazir, who shelters al Qaeda leaders in the Wazir tribal areas.
Khadr was wanted by the US for his suspected ties to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the US. He was also on the United Nations’ 1267 Committee list of designated terrorists. Pakistani security forces killed Kanadi and several other al Qaeda fighters during a raid in October 2003.
Mansoor’s two other brothers, Omar and Abdurahman, have both spent time at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba after being detained while fighting US forces in Afghanistan in 2001. Omar, the youngest detainee (he is thought to have been 15 when he was captured), is still in custody. Abdurahman was released in 2003.
Background on the recent strikes in Pakistan
US intelligence believes that al Qaeda has reconstituted its external operations network in Pakistan’s lawless, Taliban-controlled tribal areas. This network is tasked with hitting targets in the West, India, and elsewhere. The US has struck at these external cells using unmanned Predator aircraft and other means in an effort to disrupt al Qaeda’s external network and decapitate the leadership. The US also has targeted al Qaeda-linked Taliban fighters operating in Afghanistan, particularly the notorious Haqqani Network.
As of the summer of 2008, al Qaeda and the Taliban operated 157 known training camps in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province. Al Qaeda has been training terrorists holding Western passports to conduct attacks, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal. Some of the camps are devoted to training the Taliban’s military arm; some train suicide bombers for attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan; some focus on training the various Kashmiri terror groups; some train al Qaeda operatives for attacks in the West; some train the Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda’s Shadow Army; and one serves as a training ground for the Black Guard, the elite bodyguard unit for Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and other senior al Qaeda leaders.
The air campaign has had success over the past three months. Since Dec. 8, 2009, the air campaign in Pakistan has killed three senior al Qaeda leaders, a senior Taliban commander, a senior Haqqani Network commander, two senior al Qaeda operatives, and a wanted Palestinian terrorist who was allied with al Qaeda. The status of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakeemullah Mehsud is still unknown.
Already this year, the US has killed Mansur al Shami, an al Qaeda ideologue and aide to al Qaeda’s leader in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu Yazid; Sheikh Mansoor, a Shadow Army commander based in North Waziristan; Mohammed Haqqani, a military commander in the Haqqani Network; and Haji Omar Khan, a senior Taliban leader in North Waziristan. Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim, the Abu Nidal Organization operative who participated in killing 22 hostages during the 1986 hijacking of Pan Am flight 73, is thought to have been killed in the Jan. 9 airstrike. And Abdul Basit Usman, an Abu Sayyaf operative with a $1 million US bounty for information leading to his capture, is rumored to have been killed in a strike on Jan. 14, although a Philippine military spokesman said Usman is likely still alive and in the Philippines.
In December 2009, the US killed Abdullah Said al Libi, the top commander of the Shadow Army; Zuhaib al Zahib, a senior commander in the Shadow Army; and Saleh al Somali, the leader of al Qaeda’s external network [see LWJ report, “Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010” for the full list].