Younis al Mauritani. Photo from the Pakistani military.
The Pakistani military claimed it captured Younis al Mauritani, a senior al Qaeda leader suspected of directing attacks against the US, Europe, and Australia, along with two associates during a raid in the southwestern city of Quetta.
The Pakistani Army announced today that al Mauritani and “two other senior Al Qaeda operatives, Abdul Ghaffar Al Shami (Bachar Chama) and Messara Al Shami (Mujahid Amino)” were captured in a joint raid carried out by the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), the military’s notorious intelligence service, and the Frontier Corps Balochistan. The arrests were “conducted with technical assistance of United States Intelligence Agencies,” the Pakistani military’s press release stated. The announcement included a grainy file photograph of al Mauritani but did not mention the date of the raid.
Al Mauritani “was tasked personally by Osama Bin Laden to focus on hitting targets of economical importance in United States of America, Europe, and Australia,” according to the Pakistani military’s announcement.
“He was planning to target United States economic interests including gas/oil pipelines, power generating dams, and strike ships/oil tankers through explosive laden speed boats in International waters,” the press release continued.
US intelligence officials have not confirmed the Pakistani claims that al Mauritani and the two other operatives are in custody.
Last year al Mauritani, who was previously an unknown figure, jumped into the spotlight after he was identified as directing a plot by al Qaeda to attack multiple targets in Europe in a Mumbai-like terror assault. Several news reports incorrectly claimed that he was al Qaeda’s so-called “number 3,” or third in command. The number 3 designation is often assigned by Western officials and media to al Qaeda’s suspected operations chief. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda’s #3 misidentified again, for more information.]
But in fact, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal last year that al Mauritani is a senior member of al Qaeda’s external operations council, the division that is tasked with hitting the US, Europe, and allied nations. Al Mauritani, Adnan el Shukrijuma, and Ilyas Kashmiri are believed to be the senior-most members of the external operations council. Kashmiri is rumored to have been killed in a Predator strike in early June, but the report has never been confirmed.
The Pakistani military has described al Mauritani’s “critical arrest” as “yet another fatal blow [that] has been delivered to al Qaeda.” Similarly, top US intelligence officials have claimed that al Qaeda has been dealt near-death blows over the past several months. Osama bin Laden was killed in a US raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2. And US officials believe that both Atiyah Abd al Rahman, a top al Qaeda leader, and Kashmiri were killed in Predator drone strikes in June and late August, respectively. But Atiyah, who like Kashmiri has been reported killed in the past only to resurface, has not been confirmed dead.