Al Qaeda’s losses in Damadola may be even worse than thought last evening. Since the death of Abu Khabab al-Masri, Khalid Habib and Abd Rahman al-Maghribi were reported, two more al Qaeda commanders are believed to have been killed. Dan Darling provides a breakdown of the al Qaeda leaders thought to have been killed in the nightime airstrike:
Abu Khabab al-Masri (WMD committee head)
Abd Rahman al-Masri al-Maghribi (al-Zawahiri’s son-in-law, al Qaeda commander)
Abu Ubeidah al-Masri (Kunar operations chief)
Marwan al-Suri (Waziristan operations chief)
Khalid Habib (southeastern Afghanistan commander)
Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi (southwestern Afghanistan commander)
Mr. Darling includes Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi as one of those reported killed, however Newsday states that while he was invited to the dinner, “it was not clear whether Al-Iraqi attended and there was no report that he was missing.”
Abu Ubaidah is an Egyptian, and Marwan As-Suri a Syrian. Newsday provides further details on the importance of the two al Qaeda commanders::
Abu Ubaidah, in his mid-40s, is deputy commander of al-Qaida forces in Kunar, a ruggedly mountainous province where U.S. troops fought offensives last year to clear out militants, said the source, who asked not to be identified. Kunar is one of three or four Afghan provinces where the war in Afghanistan remains at its most intensive — and one reason is that guerrillas have been able to flee across the border into Pakistan.
Marwan As-Suri, believed to be in his 30s, is a Syrian who recently had been appointed to head al-Qaida operations in part of the Pakistani areas bordering Kunar, the Afghan said.
Taliban sympathizers and local leaders of the Tehrik Nifaz-e-Sha’riah Mohammed, Maulana Faqir Mohammed and Maulana Liaqat, escaped the attack and are now on the run from Pakistani authorities. Perhaps spurred by the success in Damadola, Pakistan’s military has reported five al Qaeda fighters were arrested in the North West Frontier Provinces today during two separate raids.
The deaths of Abu Ubeidah al-Masri and Marwan al-Suri would add further problems to al Qaeda’s cross border operations in Kuna and Waziristan, as this region is considered a main base for the terrorists. Mr. Darling refers to the Damadole attack as “the biggest single decapitation strike on the al Qaeda leadership since Tora Bora.”
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.