US captures senior al Qaeda leader Mohammad Rahim

Al Qaeda’s banner.

The US has captured a senior al Qaeda leader with close links to Osama bin Laden and has transferred him to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Department of Defense reported today. Muhammad Rahim al Afghani, a senior aide to bin Laden, was captured in August 2007.

Rahim was described as a “high-value” individual by Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman in a press briefing today that announced Rahim’s transfer to the military detention facility. “Prior to his arrival in Guantanamo, he has been held in CIA custody,” Whitman said, indicating he has been interrogated by the CIA for eight months.

Whitman described Rahim as “one of (Osama bin Laden’s) most trusted facilitators and procurement specialists.” Rahim is from Nangahar province, Afghanistan, and joined al Qaeda in the mid-1990s. He served as a procurement agent, and then later as a courier for bin Laden. Rahim also helped facilitate bin Laden’s escape during the 2002 battle in Tora Bora in Nangahar province.

Just prior to his capture, Rahim was providing aid to Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied extremist groups operating in Afghanistan. “He had knowledge of or was involved in al Qaeda attacks planned against coalition forces in Afghanistan,” Whitman said. Rahim also obtained chemicals for an al Qaeda plot to attack US forces in 2002, likely making him a close associate of Abu Khabab, al Qaeda’s weapons of mass destruction expert. He also attempt to recruit Afghan local with access to US bases to assist in the 2002 plot.

Rahim is also said to be a close associate of Abd al Hadi al Iraqi. Hadi was one of Osama bin Laden’s senior deputies. Hadi, a former major in the Iraqi Army during the rule of Saddam Hussein, was al Qaeda’s internal operations chief and served as an instructor as well as the commander of several al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. He sat on al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or ruling council. Hadi was captured either in 2006 or early 2007 while attempting to re-enter Iraq. He was personally chosen by bin Laden to monitor al Qaeda operations in Iraq.

Rahim’s capture highlights the central role Pakistan plays as al Qaeda’s base of operations. He was captured in Lahore, Pakistan in August 2007, according to The Nation. Several days later, Sheikh Ilyas Khel, a Taliban commander who served under legendary Taliban commander Younas Khalis, was captured in Peshawar. Khel “was posted on an important route, connecting Tora Bora with Jalalabad, through which most of the al Qaeda stalwarts escaped from Tora Bora” in 2002, The Nation reported.

Numerous al Qaeda and Taliban commanders and operatives have been killed or captured in Pakistan. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and allied terror groups maintain 29 training camps in North and South Waziristan. More camps are known to be in operation throughout the tribal areas, the Northwest Frontier Province and in greater Pakistan.

Just days ago, the US military struck a base in North Waziristan that was operated by Siraj Haqqani. Siraj is a senior terrorist commander waging a terror campaign inside both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The US killed Abu Laith al Libi, a senior al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan and a leader in the Libyan Islmic Fighting Group, during a strike in North Waziristan on Jan. 29. Adam Gadahn, al Qaeda’s propaganda chief, has been rumored to have been killed in the same strike. Al Qaeda operative Rashid Rauf escaped from Pakistani custody in December 2007, with help from Pakistani police.

Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and much of al Qaeda’s leadership is believed to be sheltering in the tribal areas or the Northwestern Frontier Province. The Taliban openly runs the tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan, Bajaur, and Mohmand, and maintains a strong influence in the rest of the tribal regions and the Northwestern Frontier Province. The Afghan Taliban’s Shura Majlis operates from Quetta in Baluchistan province.

See The Fall of Northwestern Pakistan for more information in the rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province.

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

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  • Shade says:

    Is this the same Mohammed Rahim that was on the 12 most wanted al-qaeda and Taliban poster released earlier this year? There was a $200,000 reward for info leading to his death or capture but there was little info on him at the time.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    It may be. That list came out in August 2007, jsut when Rahim was captured. Phil Peterson is working to get an updated version of the 12 most wanted to create a new slideshow.

  • Neocon News says:

    High Value Target Captured. Does Muhammad Rahim help lead us to anyone else?

    (via Hot Air) Here’s some news to end your week happily on. According to the Pentagon, we have moved a high-value target to Gitmo. It had not been widely reported that Mohammad Rahim had been scooped up, but apparently we’ve had him since t…

  • Flip says:

    any thoughts on certain members of congress and senate begin to really shrill against waterboarding? around august 07?

  • Marlin says:

    I realize you have to take Syed Saleem Shahzad with a grain of salt, but despite being a Taliban supporter I feel his articles usually have a strong element of truth in them. He makes an interesting concession today about Punjab province (of which Lahore is the capital) that I don’t believe I’ve seen in a non-American paper before.

    The real concern is the radicalization of Punjab, the largest Pakistani province and comprising more than half the country’s population, through banned militant organizations.
    Thousands of activists are known to be affiliated with banned militant organizations in Punjab. Many were initially trained by Pakistani security agencies to fuel the insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir.
    However, after September 11, 2001, Pakistan, as a new partner in the “war on terror”, was forced by the Americans to shelve its support of the Kashmiri insurgency. As a result, militant training camps were shut down and militants left their parent organizations in the thousands.
    These young jihadis are obviously committed fighters and have been kicking their heels for several years now. The fear is that if they fall into the hands of al-Qaeda, they could significantly escalate unrest in Pakistan, Afghanistan and even Iraq. Segments of these Punjab-based militant organizations have already been cultivated by the Takfiris, resulting in a new source of suicide bombers.

    Asia Times: Al-Qaeda steps up its battle in Pakistan

  • thanos says:

    Interesting note from Syed, but the gov’t of Pakistan didn’t really cut all ties until Oct 2006, shortly after that most of the Kashmiri orgs went off the leash and well off the reservation. That’s when the assasination attempts started against Musharraf. A bit later they declared alliance with AQ (in the end Jihadi’s still have to eat, and the gov’t wasn’t paying them anymore…)
    Also noteworthy: During the period after Rahim’s capture, Bill posted an article about all of the AQ camps in the frontier clearing out.
    We also started a new Tora Bora campaign and Musharraf ditched the first two days of the Afghan-Pak Peace Jirga.

  • JusCruzn says:

    Aren’t these the same guys who always say they want to fight to the death? Guess that’s only the ones Al Qaeda and The Taliban get that can’t read or write and don’t know any better than what they tell them. Must be some good intel going on lately to have all these kills/captures going on. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK TROOPS!!! KEEP KILLING TERRORISTS!!!

  • Alex says:

    I’m curious, why was this information released now? It just seems kind of odd to release it several months after the fact

  • Remember These Guys? (Al Qaeda)

    They are in the news again for blowing up a multiculturalist’s dream venue in Pakistan, but Guantanmo awaits one of their leaders, a fellow instrumental in spiriting Osama bin Laden away from our first serious strike into the heart of Central As…

  • Edward says:

    By now presumably he’s been broken or otherwise is of no further use to the USG incognito…


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