Abu Hafs al Shahri. Image from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of the Interior.
Abu Hafs al Shahri, whom US intelligence officials have described as al Qaeda’s operations chief for Pakistan, has been confirmed killed in the Sept. 11 Predator airstrike in Pakistan’s tribal agency of North Waziristan. Shahri, whose real name is Osama Hamud Gharman al Shahri, was listed among the 85-most-wanted terrorists by Saudi Arabia in 2009.
According to Al Hayat Online, Shahri’s mother was contacted “by a relative of her son’s wife who is a foreigner” to inform her of her son’s death. “His family received condolences on his death in Riyadh,” the newspaper continued. Al Qaeda has yet to release an official martyrdom statement announcing his death, but when an operative is killed the terror group routinely notifies his family.
The Sept. 11 strike is the only attack by the unmanned US Predators and Reapers in Pakistan’s tribal areas since the Aug. 22 strike that is thought to have killed Atiyah Abd al Rahman, another top al Qaeda leader. Atiyah’s death has not been confirmed, as al Qaeda has not announced his death [see LWJ report, Al Qaeda releases Ramadan tape by Atiyah Abd al Rahman; and Threat Matrix report, ‘Attiya Allah’ authors article in latest edition of al Qaeda magazine].
A Haqqani Network commander named Hafeezullah and a “foreigner,” a term often used to describe Arabs and other non-Pakistanis, were among four “militants” reported killed in the Sept. 11 strike.
Shahri joined al Qaeda prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on US. He was the cousin of Sa’ad Mohammad al Shahri, a senior al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan who was a close associate of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Sa’ad al Shahri was killed in a US airstrike in Afghanistan’s Kunar province on Sept. 25, 2010 that also killed al Qaeda commander Abdallah Umar al Qurayshi, an explosives expert named Abu Atta al Kuwaiti, “and several Arabic foreign fighters.” As in the case of Abu Hafs al Shahri, Sa’ad’s family was notified of his death.
Before rising to a top leadership position in al Qaeda, Abu Hafs al Shahri served as a member of Osama bin Laden’s security detail, the Black Guard. He also served as a military trainer in al Qaeda’s camps.
As al Qaeda’s operational commander in Pakistan, Shahri coordinated attacks with the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and other local jihadist groups. US intelligence officials believe that he was being groomed to assume some of Atiyah’s responsibilities. According to Al Hayat Online, Shahri “was planning to return to Saudi Arabia to carry out a terrorist operation.”