Jihadist releases bio of Yemeni al Qaeda operative killed in Somalia
A jihadist released a martyrdom statement for a seasoned al Qaeda operative who waged jihad in Bosnia, Dagestan, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia; escaped from a prison in Yemen; and trained an American to fight in Somalia. Two of his brothers are currently being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
The statement announcing the death of Abu 'Asim al Tabuki Mansour Nasser al Bihani was written by Abu Ibrahim al Muhajir and released on Shumukh al Islam, a jihadist forum closely linked to al Qaeda, on Nov. 26. Abu 'Asim's martyrdom statement has been translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
According to the statement, Abu 'Asim was a Yemeni citizen but was raised in the Saudi Arabian city of Tabuk. He "emigrated to Afghanistan" and then moved to the Russian republics of Dagestan and Chechnya, where he fought with Ibn al Khattab, the notorious Saudi al Qaeda commander who led the International Islamic Brigade against the Russians until he was killed in 2002. Abu 'Asim fought in Chechnya "for nearly four years, and there he gained much military experience and witnessed the siege of Grozny."
Abu 'Asim left Chechnya after being wounded, and then traveled to Afghanistan, according to the martyrdom statement. He stayed there until the fall of the Taliban, traveled "between many countries," and was eventually captured in Saudi Arabia and then transferred to Yemen. He was put in jail with other al Qaeda operatives, but was one of 23 members to escape under mysterious circumstances from the Sana'a prison in 2006. Among those who escaped are none other than Nassir al Wuhayshi, the current leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and Qassim al Raymi, a senior AQAP military commander.
After spending some time in Yemen, Abu 'Asim traveled to Somalia to fight alongside Shabaab, al Qaeda's affiliate in the Horn of Africa. He "participated in the battles of Bandardali and Jalab," and then began training other Shabaab commanders and fighters. Among his pupils was Omar Hammami, the American citizen from Alabama who is now serving as a Shabaaab commander, propagandist, and recruiter. Hammami has been listed by the US as a specially designated global terrorist. [See LWJ report, US adds American, Kenyan Shabaab leaders to list of designated terrorists.]
Hammami is better known as Abu Mansour al Amriki [the American]. Hammami "didn't yet have the nickname Abu Mansour, but he was called that after the martyrdom of his trainer."
The martyrdom statement said Abu 'Asim was killed "in a battle with the American Marines and the apostate anti-terror forces supported by two barges." Although it is not stated, he is known to have been killed by naval gunfire after US special operations forces clashed with remnants of the Islamic Courts Union off the Somali coast. The gunfire targeted Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, an al Qaeda leader who was wanted for his role in the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Fazul was later killed by Somali troops in 2011.
The martyrdom statement mirrors some of what the US government believes it knows about 'Abu Asim. According to US intelligence reports, Abu 'Asim "fought jihad in Tajikistan and Bosnia for five years and trained operatives on the fabrication and use of explosives, including remotely detonated explosives and explosive belts in Jalalabad, Afghanistan in order to conduct suicide operations against the United States Embassy and United States military bases in Yemen."
The US government also said that "a senior al Qaeda operative identified [Abu 'Asim] as someone who regularly resupplied Chechen Mujahedin fighters with food and money during the final days of the late-2001 battle for Kandahar, Afghanistan." [See LWJ report, The Jihadi Brothers, for more information.]
The Bihani family is steeped in terrorist activities. Two of Abu 'Asim's brothers, Toffiq Nasser Awad and Ghaleb Nassar, are currently being held at Gitmo for fighting alongside the Taliban and al Qaeda. Toffiq trained at al Qaeda's notorious al Farouq camp and fought in Chechnya and Afghanistan. Ghaleb admitted to fighting in the 055 Brigade (or 55th Arab Brigade), al Qaeda's military unit that fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Another brother, Zakariyah, was captured with Abu 'Asim and spent time in jail in Yemen before escaping in 2006.
For more information on the Bihani family, see LWJ reports: