Senior German al Qaeda leader killed in Afghanistan
Bekkay Harrach, who is also known as Al Hafidh Abu Talha al Almani, in an al Qaeda propaganda video.
A German national who served as a senior member of al Qaeda's external operations branch as well as a leader in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was killed during fighting last year in Afghanistan.
Bekkay Harrach, a German national who operated along the Afghan-Pakistani border, was killed while leading an assault on the Bagram Airfield in central Afghanistan, according to a martyrdom statement recently released by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Harrach was also known as Al Hafidh Abu Talha al Almani.
"Our friend Bekkay from Bonn, alias Abu Talha, the fearless preacher, who has tangled with the whole of Germany, died ... the death of Shaheed (martyr)," the statement read, according to a report in Spiegel.
Harrach led a team of 20 fighters made up from the ranks of al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, according to the statement. The various terrorist groups carry out military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan under the aegis of the Lashkar al Zil, or the Shadow Army [for more information, see LWJ report, Al Qaeda's paramilitary 'Shadow Army'].
While the martyrdom statement did not detail the date of the attack, the Taliban and al Qaeda are known to have conducted a joint operation against the Bagram Airfield on May 19, 2010. The complex assault was launched late at night. Heavily armed fighters, including at least four fighters wearing suicide vests, attempted to storm a gate at the airbase but were repelled by US troops manning the security perimeter. The attack shocked NATO commanders in Afghanistan, as Parwan province and the area around Bagram Airfield were considered devoid of Taliban influence.
Background on Bekkay Harrach
Harrach, who went by the alias Abu Talha al Almani, had been a member of al Qaeda since March of 2007, according to the German Federal Public Prosecutor.
Harrach worked part time at the Muhadshirin Mosque in Bonn, where he was recruited by al Qaeda scout Aleem Nasir, and received a letter of recommendation that opened doors to the terror network's training camps. He is known to have received military training in an al Qaeda camp in Pakistan's tribal areas.
Abu Ubaidah al Masri, al Qaeda's external operations chief until his death in early 2008, assigned Harrach to his branch, which is tasked with striking at the West. Harrach quickly rose through the ranks and became a member of the external operations council, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal in October 2009.
Harrach was also a senior propagandist for al Qaeda. In September 2009, Harrach released several propaganda videos that focused on the German elections. In one video, Harrach threatened to conduct attacks in German cities.
In October 2009, the US added Harrach to its list of specially designated global terrorists "for acting for or on behalf of al Qaeda."
Harrach was rumored to have been killed in one of four US Predator airstrikes in August 2010 in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
In addition to his al Qaeda and IMU roles, Harrach was a close confidant of the Haqqani Network, the Taliban subgroup that operates on both sides of the border and is closely tied to both al Qaeda and Pakistan's military and intelligence service. He was under the direct protection of Siraj Haqqani, the military commander of the family network and a member of al Qaeda's ruling council. Haqqani Network commanders are said to have sought Harrach's advice on the planning and execution of major attacks.
"If we want to do something, we always ask the German [Harrach] for his opinion," a source in the Haqqani Network told Spiegel in January 2009.