Death of al Qaeda Shura member confirmed by widow
The widow of a member of al Qaeda's Shura Majlis, or executive council, recently confirmed that her husband and two sons were killed in a US drone airstrike in Pakistan last fall.
The widow of Abu Miqdad al Masri announced the deaths of her husband and her two sons, Al Miqdad Rafie Mustafa and Khalid Rafie Mustafa, in a statement that was released yesterday by the al Qaeda-linked Al Fajr Media Center and distributed on jihadist Internet forums. The statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
"I, the wife of [Abu Miqdad al Masri], may Allah have mercy on him, the member in the Shura Council of Qaedat al-Jihad Organization, offer my deep condolences to the mujahideen in the fighting arenas and to the Islamic Ummah for his martyrdom," the statement said. "We condole the Ummah of Islam for our honorable Sheikh and his sons."
Abu Miqdad al Masri's widow said her sons "were like a flower in the arena of jihad."
According to the widow, the al Qaeda leader and two sons were killed on Oct. 14, 2011. The US is known to have conducted a drone strike in the village of Danda Darpa Khel in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan on Oct. 14. Danda Darpa Khel is a stronghold of the Haqqani Network, a Taliban group that is backed by the Pakistani military and intelligence service and that also shelters al Qaeda. One day prior, the US killed Jan Baz Zadran, whom the US military has described as the Haqqani Network's third in command, in a strike in the same village.
Reports of the deaths of Abu Miqdad al Masri and another al Qaeda operative known as Abd al Rahman al Yemeni emerged at the end of October 2011. The Washington Post described the two al Qaeda leaders as "veterans tied to the group's senior leadership and actively involved in planning operations overseas," while al Masri was said to be "a former associate of Osama bin Laden." At that time, a US intelligence official who tracks al Qaeda's network told The Long War Journal that al Masri was "a member of al Qaeda's Shura Majlis," or the executive leadership council [see LWJ report, 2 senior al Qaeda leaders killed in recent drone strikes in Pakistan].
The widow's martyrdom statement is the first confirmation from al Qaeda that Abu Miqdad al Masri did indeed die in the October 2011 drone strike. Al Qaeda had not issued a martyrdom statement announcing the death, as it has done in the past when some senior leaders have been killed.
The statement by Abu Miqdad's widow indicates that she may play a more influential role in al Qaeda than is usual for the wives of terror leaders, but that is not without precedent. Omayma al Zawahiri, the wife of al Qaeda's emir, Ayman al Zawahiri, has contributed to al Qaeda propaganda in the past. In December 2009, As Sahab, al Qaeda's media arm, published "A Message to Muslim Sisters," a statement from Omayma that offered advice to the wives of jihadists.