Two Saudi al Qaeda operatives killed in Mosul


Abu Yasir al Saudi’s network. Click to view presentation on al Qaeda in Iraq’s network in southeastern Mosul.

As US and Iraqi security forces position troops to remove al Qaeda in Iraq from its last urban stronghold, Multinational Forces Iraq killed two senior Saudi al Qaeda operatives in the northern city. Multinational Forces Iraq announced today it killed Abu Yasir al Saudi and Hamdan during a helicopter strike at the end of February.

Abu Yasir al Saudi was al Qaeda in Iraq’s emir, or leader, of southeastern Mosul. Yasir fought NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan prior to arriving in Mosul in August 2007 “with a group of foreign terrorists,” Multinational Forces Iraq stated. His initial post was as a local cell leader, but he rose through the ranks of al Qaeda in Iraq. He was later appointed as a “key operational leader responsible for orchestrating, as well as participating in, attacks conducted by his [al Qaeda in Iraq] foreign terrorist network throughout the city.” He became the emir of southeastern Mosul after his commander was captured by Task Force 88, the hunter-killer teams assigned to dismantling al Qaeda in Iraq’s network, on Feb. 18.

US Army Soldiers attached to the 77th Engineer Company, 94th Engineer Battalion, work throughout the night as they construct a new combat outpost in Mosul, Iraq, on Feb. 14. Photo by Specialist Kieran Cuddihy. Click to view.

Yasir also had close links to the leaders of al Qaeda’s northern network and was said to be a close associate of Abu Ayyub al Masri, al Qaeda in Iraq’s commander. Yasir facilitated, planned, and participated in improvised explosive device and small-arms attacks against US and Iraqi forces in Mosul. He was behind an attempted attack using a 5,000-pound truck bomb. Yasir’s cell disguised a truck with markings of a Red Crescent food relief vehicle, but US forces found and destroyed the vehicle before his could be used to kill civilians and security forces.

Hamdan was a close associate of Yasir, although it is not clear when he entered Iraq. He helped foreign terrorists enter Mosul and “led a regional anti-aircraft ring.”

Saudi nationals make up the largest element of the foreign al Qaeda fighters, according to al Qaeda documents seized by US forces and analyzed by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. Based on documentation found during the October 2007killing of Muthanna, al Qaeda’s emir along the Iraq-Syrian border who was responsible for facilitating the entry of foreign terrorists, 41 percent of foreign fighters were from Saudi Arabia. “Libyan nationals accounted for the second largest group entering Iraq in that time period with about 19 percent of the total, followed by Syrians and Yemenis each at 8 percent, Algerians with 7 percent and Moroccans at 6 percent,” Reuters reported.

The deaths of Yasir and Hamdan highlight al Qaeda’s Central Command’s commitment to Iraq. Yasir was deployed from Afghanistan to Iraq in August 2007, just when it became clear al Qaeda was encountering problems due to the massive offensive launched against the terror network in 2007. In late October, Osama bin Laden, the global leader of al Qaeda, lamented the terror group’s tactic situation. Bin Laden said, “the darkness has become pitch black” for al Qaeda in Iraq, yet exhorted its leaders to change tactics and continue the fight.

Map of Mosul. Click map to view.

US and Iraqi security force have increased the pressure on al Qaeda in Mosul. Multinational Forces Iraq said 142 al Qaeda leaders and operatives have been killed or captured in Mosul since January, when the Iraqi government said it would launch a decisive battle against the terror group. Al Qaeda’s leaders and fighters have migrated to Mosul after being ejected from its strongholds in Baghdad, Anbar, and Diyala provinces.

US and Iraqi security forces have conducted major sweeps against al Qaeda in Iraq cells in Mosul throughout January. The larger raids netted one al Qaeda fighter killed and 14 captured on Feb. 11, 21 captured on Feb. 13, 11 captured on Feb. 22, and 27 captured on Feb. 23.

But the sweeps and clearing operations are only the beginning. US and Iraqi security forces are using the same model as was used in Baghdad: establishing security outposts in the heart of neighborhoods throughout Mosul. At least 18 combat outposts, which are manned jointly by US and Iraqi forces, are being built in Mosul to prevent al Qaeda from re-establishing itself once the neighborhoods have been cleared.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • Marlin says:

    Azzaman reported back on February 17 that security walls and barriers are being built in Mosul just as they were in Fallujah and Baghdad.

    And in their bid they are separating and isolating residential quarters with security barriers and walls making movement rather difficult.
    Some quarters like Yarmouk, Thawar and Siha are completed isolated.

    Azzaman: U.S. troops erect walls in Mosul as inhabitants flee

  • Solo says:

    Amazing how AQ leaders are being killed or captured at a rapid rate. There’s some good intel happening.

  • referman says:

    The intel sounds like its coming from the captured AQ guys..Most of those AQ captured are singing their hearts out..They are brave in numbers.US soldiers are real fighters,given a mission they will watch out for each other and accomplish that mission.They are bringing down the hammer and AQ better keep on the run..US soldiers will capture or kill these bad guys.OOOrrraaahh SemperFi

  • AQI Losses says:

    MNF-Iraq just released slides from its briefing today.
    On pages 10 and 12 it demonstrates the degradation of Yasir’s cell in Mosul. 44% of the cell has been killed or captured over the past two months, including other leaders in the cell.
    I believe there are six reasons why you are seeing terrorist leadership and cells being rolled up relatively more quickly now, not only AQI and Ansar al-Sunna on the Sunni side, but the Special Groups on the Shiite side as well. (MNF-Iraq announced today yet another Special Groups leader being captured)
    – Terrorist leaders/members when captured are giving up valuable information.
    – Coalition/Iraqi raids also result in the capturing of vital intelligence in the form of computer hard drives, CDs and documents. Such as the AQI diary that was recently seized, the documents captured in the Muthanna raid listing foreign AQI members (as Bill mentions), and the hand drawn Zarqawi map showing the ratlines around Baghdad.
    – Iraqi civilians being fed up with these groups and are more willing to share what they know. The formations of the SOIs are vital in this area, as well as the construction of Coalition/Iraqi security outposts among the popoulation. Also, the capture of Mashadani in July 2007, was a severe blow to AQI trying to put an Iraqi face on their organization via the Islamic State of Iraq. Mashandani confessed that ISI’s leader Abu Omar-al-Baghdadi is a fictional person.
    – Iraqi intelligence agents have infiltrated terrorist groups to a certain extent. This makes the leadership question the Iraqis in their ranks. I noticed in today’s MNF-Iraq briefing transcript that Yasir was “one of four Saudi Arabians appointed to supervise al-Qaeda activities in Mosul.”

  • AQI Losses says:

    Another note:
    Back in the summer of 2007, AQI’s Mosul leadership took a heavy beating that included the following losses:
    – Two Emirs of Mosul
    – Two Military Emirs of Mosul
    – Two Emirs of East Mosul and a deputy
    – Emir of Western Mosul
    – AQI Head Intelligence in East Mosul
    Then in the fall of 2007, you have al-Masri bringing over Yasir and other foreigners to try to reconstitute the leadership. I have a feeling that AQI’s leadership is fragile in the city and that it may collapse relatively quickly with continued pressure. It has been a good start with Yasir’s network being degraded, along with the capture of Mosul’s Security Emir and Military Emir, and the Security Emir of Northern Iraq since Dec. 2007.

  • Rhyno327/lrsd says:

    Sounds like US/IA forces have thier foot in the door already. They are dividing up the city by grids. If they want an air-strike, they just call in the grid box, number of the structure, and thats it. The US forces have moved in, and I guess its a matter of time before the armor rolls and the troops push the enemy into the section of the city they want them. Then it will be lights out.


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