Noor Qasim Sabari, the shadow governor for Kunar province, from a Taliban video released in 2012.
The National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s domestic intelligence service, claimed that the Taliban’s shadow governor for Kunar province and several senior commanders were killed in an airstrike three days ago. The Taliban commander’s death has not been confirmed.
The NDS issued a press release stating that Noor Qasim Sabari, the shadow governor of Kunar, was killed in an airstrike that targeted “a gathering of the senior Pakistani and Afghan Taliban leaders” on the evening of April 7, Khaama Press reported.
Sabari appeared in a video by the Taliban that was released in 2012. In that video, which is titled “The Ghazi of Ghaziabad,” the Taliban welcomed two Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers suspected of killing US and Afghan soldiers in insider or green-on-blue attacks earlier in 2012. [See Threat Matrix report, Observations on Taliban video ‘welcoming’ rogue ANA soldiers.]
The airstrike, which would have been launched by the US military or the CIA, also reportedly killed Qari Osman, the shadow district governor for Shigal; Qari Nasir Gajar, the chief suicide attack coordinator; Mullah Bashir Gajar, the IED coordinator; Qari Sherin, an assassination squad leader; and senior commanders Qari Zubair, Qari Latif, and Qari Tari. It is unclear which of the senior commanders or attack coordinators, if any, are Pakistani Taliban members. Additionally, nine Taliban fighters are said to have been killed.
The Afghan Taliban has not released a martyrdom statement announcing the deaths of Sabari or the other commanders on its website, Voice of jihad. An inquiry on the NDS report that was sent to the Taliban by The Long War Journal has gone unanswered.
The International Security Assistance Force has also not commented on the reports of the airstrike in Kunar. ISAF stopped issuing press releases on its operations against the Taliban, al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, as of June 27, 2013.
For years, the rugged, remote Afghan province of Kunar has served as a sanctuary for al Qaeda, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and allied terror groups. The presence of al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba cells has been detected in the districts of Asmar, Asadabad, Dangam, Ghazibad, Marawana, Nari, Pech, Shaikal Shate, Sarkani, Shigal, and Watahpur; or 11 of Kunar’s 15 districts, according to press releases issued by ISAF that have been compiled by The Long War Journal. The Taliban and al Qaeda are closely allied in the province.
The US appears to be continuing to hunt for senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in Kunar, despite its withdrawal from much of the province and the end of its counterinsurgency campaign there. Last year, two wanted senior al Qaeda and Taliban commanders were reported to have been killed in US airstrikes.
In mid-October 2013, Qari Dawat, a Taliban commander in Kunar who has been hunted by US forces for years and has vowed to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden, was reported to have been killed. And in mid-August 2013, US strike aircraft reportedly killed Qari Zia Rahman, dual-hatted al Qaeda and Taliban leader who operates in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and who trains female suicide bombers. The deaths of Dawat and Rahman were never confirmed.