Afghan al Qaeda/Taliban commander threatens to avenge Pakistan drone strike
Qari Zia Rahman and a map of northeastern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan. Map from the Asia Times; click to view.
A "dual hatted Taliban and al Qaeda commander" who leads forces on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border has threatened to avenge a recent controversial Predator strike in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
Qari Zia Rahman, who commands both al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, threatened to retaliate against US forces in Afghanistan for the March 17 Predator strike in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. The strike, which was denounced by top Pakistani military and political leaders, killed more than 30 people, including 10 Taliban fighters and a senior lieutenant loyal to North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar.
In his threat, Qari Zia emphasized the close relationship between al Qaeda and the Taliban, noting that the groups have together decided to strike at US forces in Afghanistan.
"After the recent drone strikes in Pakistan, the Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan have jointly decided to take revenge of these US attacks," Qari Zia told The News.
"The revenge of the US drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas will be taken by intensifying attacks on the US installations and troops in Afghanistan," he said. "The other elements working with the foreign occupation troops in Afghanistan will also be targeted."
Background on Qari Zia Rahman
Qari Zia is a member of al Qaeda and serves as the Taliban's top regional commander in northeastern Afghanistan. He operates in Kunar and in neighboring Nuristan province in Afghanistan, and he also operates across the border in Pakistan's tribal agencies of Bajaur and Mohmand.
Qari Zia is closely allied with Faqir Mohammed, the Taliban's leader in Bajaur, as well as with Osama bin Laden. Qari Zia's fighters are from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and various Arab nations. He commands a brigade in al Qaeda's paramilitary Shadow Army, or the Lashkar al Zil, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.
Kunar province is a known sanctuary for al Qaeda and allied terror groups. The presence of al Qaeda cells has been detected in the districts of Pech, Shaikal Shate, Sarkani, Dangam, Asmar, Asadabad, Shigal, and Marawana; or eight of Kunar's 15 districts, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal.
Qari Zia has established suicide camps in Kunar to train female suicide bombers to attack on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda, Taliban create female suicide cells in Pakistan and Afghanistan.]
A female suicide bomber struck for the first time in Afghanistan in Kunar province on June 21, 2010. In the attack, two US soldiers were killed and two Afghan children were wounded. Qari Zia claimed credit for the suicide attack.
The next female suicide attack took place on Dec. 24, 2010, in Pakistan's tribal agency of Bajaur. The suicide bomber killed 42 Pakistani civilians in an attack at a World Food Program ration distribution point.
In late July and early August of 2010, ISAF announced that it was hunting Qari Zia Rahman. The US targeted him in multiple raids in Kunar over the summer and fall of 2010, but so far has failed to kill or capture him. On June 29, 2010, the US launched a battalion-sized operation in Kunar's Marawara district, which directly borders Pakistan. More than 150 Taliban fighters were reported killed in the operation. On July 20, US and Afghan forces launched another battalion-sized operation in Marawara to flush out Qari Zia. And on Aug. 2, combined forces conducted a raid, again in Marawara, that targeted the al Qaeda leader.
Earlier, in the spring of 2010, the Pakistani government claimed they killed Qari Zia in an airstrike, but he later spoke to the media and mocked Pakistan's interior minister for wrongly reporting his death.