German national Shahab D., who is better known as Abu Askar, in a propaganda video from 2009. Image from DPA/Welt.
Over the past month, US Predator strikes in Pakistan have killed at least three Western members of the cells assigned to carry out Mumbai-like terror assaults against targets in major European cities.
One Briton, who had been appointed to a top al Qaeda leadership position in the United Kingdom, and two Germans associated with the Hamburg cell were killed in airstrikes by unmanned US Predators or Reapers in Pakistan in September.
The Briton, who was identified as Abdul Jabbar, is thought to have been killed in a US airstrike in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan on Sept. 8. Jabbar, a British citizen who was originally from Jhelum in Pakistan, was said to have been appointed as the future leader of the so-called Islamic Army of Great Britain, according to the BBC.
“Intelligence agencies monitored a meeting of 300 militants three months ago in the Ambarshaga area of North Waziristan, attended by Jabbar and militants from the Taliban and al Qaeda,” the BBC reported. At that meeting, he was appointed the leader of the Islamic Army of Great Britain and was tasked with carrying out terror assaults in Britain, France, and Germany, using assault rifles and suicide vests.
Jabbar had earlier survived a drone strike on a militant training camp run by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a commander allied with the Haqqani Network, an Afghan Taliban faction considered one of the most effective forces battling Western troops in Afghanistan.
The two Germans have been identified as Shahab D., who goes by the name of Abu Askar, and Imran Almani, according to Welt Online.
Abu Askar was a native of Iran, but grew up in Hamburg. Askar attended the radical Taiba Mosque in Hamburg (formerly known as Al Quds), the same mosque that was involved in the 9/11 attacks. In early August this year, German officials closed the Taiba mosque, several weeks after a German named Ahmed Siddiqui was captured by US forces in Afghanistan. Siddiqui disclosed details of the Europe plot, and said it was ordered and financed by Osama bin Laden.
Askar left Hamburg in March 2009 “with three other Islamists” and traveled “from Hamburg via Frankfurt and the Gulf emirate of Qatar to Pakistan’s Peshawar,” Welt Online reported. “In the Pakistani tribal areas of Waziristan Shahab D. [Askar] joined the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” a Central Asian terror group closely allied with al Qaeda. That same year, Askar appeared in an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan video brandishing a sword and declaring that he and others had left Germany to wage jihad. Askar has also been linked to failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.
The exact location of the strike that killed Askar and Almani is not known, but there has been one recent Predator attack in Pakistan in which Germans were reported among the dead: the Sept. 8 airstrike in Datta Khel, which is said to have killed eight Germans, two Britons, and a terrorist leader known as Qureshi, who was a trainer for the Islamic Jihad Group, a splinter faction of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Qureshi was reported to be an expert in training Germans to carry out attacks in their home country.
Al Qaeda’s European terror plot has rattled several Western nations, as they have become concerned that their own citizens have traveled to Pakistan for training to wage jihad in their home nations. The chief of Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office “estimates there are more than 400 Islamists currently in Germany,” with a “core” of 131 hardened, dangerous jihadists and “278 supporters and other ‘relevant people,'” according to a report in Der Speigel. Seventy are estimated to have trained in terror camps Pakistan and 40 are thought to have fought in Afghanistan. British intelligence believes that more than 20 Britons are currently in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The US Predator campaign in Pakistan has been ramped up to counter this threat, and several terrorist leaders associated with the plot are thought to have been killed in these strikes over the past month. There have been 27 Predator strikes in Pakistan since Sept. 1, when the operation to interdict the terror network began in earnest. A few weeks after the death of Qureshi, the Islamic Jihad Group trainer, in an airstrike on Sept. 8, Sheikh Fateh al Masri, al Qaeda’s leader in Afghanistan and Pakistan, was also killed in a strike in North Waziristan.
In addition to the marked increase in airstrikes against al Qaeda operatives in the Pakistani tribal areas, Coalition Special Operations Forces dramatically stepped up operations in northern Afghanistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan immediately after Siddiqui’s capture in July. Multiple IMU commanders have been killed or captured in the northern Afghan provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan, and Takhar since July. Many of these commanders had integrated their operations with the Taliban in northern Afghanistan, and some held senior positions in the Taliban’s shadow government.
For more information on the European plot, see:
For more information on Coalition operations against the IMU in Afghanistan, see: