Al Qaeda's operations chief for Pakistan reported killed in Predator strike


Abu-Hafs-al-Shahri.jpg

Abu Hafs al Shahri. Image from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of the Interior.

A terrorist who US officials claimed is al Qaeda's operations chief for Pakistan is thought to have been killed in a recent Predator airstrike in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal areas.

The al Qaeda leader was identified as Abu Hafs al Shahri, a Saudi citizen, and is said to play a key role in coordinating al Qaeda operations and attacks in Pakistan with Hakeemullah Mehsud's Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, US officials told Reuters.

Abu Hafs al Shahri is a nom de guerre for Osama Hamud Gharman al Shahri, who was on Saudi Arabia's list of 85-most-wanted terrorists that was released in 2009. He is reported to have spent time in Syria before traveling to Afghanistan, and served as a bodyguard to Osama bin Laden.

One official told Reuters agency that Shahri was "a contender" to take over some of the duties of Atiyah Abd al Rahman, a top al Qaeda leader who is thought to have been killed in a Predator strike on Aug. 22. 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].

US officials did not state exactly when Shahri was killed, only that he was killed in the past several days. However, there has been only one reported US airstrike in Pakistan's tribal agency since the Aug. 22 strike that reportedly killed Atiyah. The only strike since then took place in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan on Sept. 11. 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.

Al Qaeda has not released a martyrdom statement announcing Shahri's death. It is unclear how US officials determined that he was killed. As North Waziristan is under Taliban control, it is difficult to obtain physical evidence that a terrorist is indeed dead.

One US official described Shahri's death as the latest major blow to the terror network based in Pakistan.

"The loss of their chief of operations in Pakistan, an individual who played a key operational and administrative role for the group, will pose a challenge for (Ayman) Zawahiri," the new emir of al Qaeda, Reuters was told by the official.

It is unclear, however, whether Shahri is even al Qaeda's head of operations in Pakistan or its main liaison to the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. In April, Karachi Islam, an Urdu-language newspaper that supports the Taliban and jihadist groups, reported that Abdul Shakoor Turkistani, the chief of the Turkistan Islamic Party, was given command of al Qaeda's forces in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas after Saif al Adel left the region. Karachi Islam is associated with the Al Rashid Trust, a charity that serves as an al Qaeda front. [see LWJ report, Al Qaeda appoints new leader of forces in Pakistan's tribal areas].

Also, on Aug. 31, the Asia Times identified Turkistani as the head of al Qaeda's operations in the tribal areas and its prime link to the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

If Shahri is confirmed killed, he would be the second senior al Qaeda leader killed or captured in Pakistan in the past two weeks. On Sept. 5, the Pakistani military announced it captured Younis al Mauritani, who is a member of the terror group's external operations council.



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READER COMMENTS: "Al Qaeda's operations chief for Pakistan reported killed in Predator strike"

Posted by Charles at September 15, 2011 2:28 PM ET:

On Sept. 5, the Pakistani military announced it captured Younis al Mauritani, who is a member of the terror group's external operations council..


It would be nice if capture of Younis al Mauritani had something to do with the death of Abu Hafs al Shahri.

We aren't likely to know that of course.

Seems to me the the number of unconfirmed AQ deaths is beginning to pile up. By unconfirmed, it is meant that AQ has not issued a eulogy for the person.


Posted by Nolan at September 15, 2011 4:13 PM ET:

It seems that this man was on the Feb. 2009 Saudi 85 most wanted list. According to ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/us-officials-al-qaida-ops-chief-killed-cia-14527928,
he is Osama Hamud Gharman al-Shehri, number 11 on that particular list.
He would join others on that list killed by US military and covert action. According to my research, they include no. 12, Osama Ali Abdullah Damjan, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2010/06/al_qaeda_operative_k.php and http://freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2526968/posts, on May 28, 2010, no. 78 Mujab Atiyah Abdel Karim al-Zahrani "Abdullah Azzam al-Saudi" news.siteintelgroup.com/component/content/article/50-march09-, on November 19, 2008 (prior actually to the list's publication) and Saleh Naif Eid al-Makhlafi "Abu Hafs al-Najdi" http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=1&id=24985, on April 13, 2011.

Posted by Nolan at September 15, 2011 4:32 PM ET:

Also, it should be reiterated that the aforementioned men appear on just one of the Saudi most wanted lists. US action in recent years has also reportedly killed others. From the Jul. 2005 list, no. 34 Saad Mohammed Mubarak Al-Jubeiri Al-Shehri was killed on Sept. 25, 2010, http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/saudi-arabia/wanted-saudi-killed-in-afghan-air-strike-1.691885. This seems pretty solid, as do all of the above. Also from the Jul. 2005 list, no. 30 Khalid Mohammed Abbas al-Harbi was reported killed on Oct. 7, 2010 along with Atiyah Abd al-Rahman. http://www.globalterroralert.com/component/content/article/696-fp-sources-pakistan-taliban-third-in-command-qari-hussein-killed-in-drone-strike.html This seems to be not very credible, considering Atiyah released at least 2 videos (March and Aug this year) after this strike and he is believed to have been killed on Aug 22, this year. At the time of the Oct 7 strike, Bill you theorized that the Khalid al-Harbi mentioned was meant to be Khalid Habib and that the sources must have been greatly mistaken, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2010/10/al_qaeda_leader_link.php. But I say, the Khalid Al-Harbi mentioned, based on his full name is the man from the Jul. 2005 most wanted list. He may have been killed, but it seems unlikely as both Qari Hussein Mehsud and Atiyah were not killed and were probably never endangered by the Oct 7 strike.

Posted by Gabriel at September 15, 2011 4:35 PM ET:

Two top leaders dead, and one captured!. This have a been a great past couple of weeks.

Could the treasure trove from Bin Laden's compound be the reason all these High value targets are being killed or captured?

Posted by Valdez at September 16, 2011 5:15 AM ET:

I wonder if Al Qaeda is intentionally holding back martyrdom eulogies so as not to potentially dishearten its followers or those Muslims sitting on the fence.

It may look courageous when as Sahab media brags about the martyrdom of Usama bin Laden, but if they have to keep announcing death after death, its not going to look very encouraging.

That said, how about another video speech with Adam Gadahn? Wonder how he's getting on these days.

Posted by Matt R. at September 16, 2011 10:11 AM ET:

One by one we're getting these guys! The capture of Younis al Mauritani most likely led to this fellow's demise and hopefully many more!

Posted by Paul at September 16, 2011 10:35 AM ET:

Someone needs to look at what is taught in Saudi and Pakistan education as they are regular offenders!

Posted by Eddie D. at September 16, 2011 2:14 PM ET:

Kill or be captured, the choce is yours.

Posted by crusader at September 20, 2011 6:42 PM ET:

valdez:

i am sure AQ is debating how many statements they would like to publish for their own well being...

as of now every now and then would boost moral among those fighting the western infidels, doing it all the time would not be clever...

if they want more ppl to their ranks they must have something to go on...

who is this moron adam gadahn! LOL!!!
why did he turn traitor? when this blows over he will be blown away with it...he saw the aqs wind blowing and blew with it...
he is nothing but an idiot...why should even he be on a most wanted list? he is his own worst enemy...i pity the poor bastard!