Senior al Qaeda commander in Afghanistan killed in US airstrike


The Bagram Four after their escape, from left to right: Abu Nasir al Qahtani, Abu Abdallah al Shami, Omar al Farouq, Abu Yahya al Libi.

The US Air Force killed an al Qaeda field commander in Afghanistan during an airstrike this month, al Qaeda said in a statement released on the Internet earlier this month.

Abu Abdallah al Shami, one of four senior al Qaeda operatives who escaped from Bagram prison on July 10, 2005, was killed in an unspecified airstrike, said Mustafa Abu Yazid, al Qaeda’s senior commander in Afghanistan.

“Al Qaeda announces the martyrdom of one of the heroes and field leaders who performed well in facing the modern crusade, our brother Abu Abdallah al Shami,” Yazid said, in a statement translated by Reuters. “Since his feet touched the battle field (after the escape) he resumed jihad with stronger zeal … he had led and took part in several successful military operations.”

Shami, who is also called Abu Mu’adh, is originally from Syria. He was captured by US forces Afghanistan’s Khost province in 2003. He then spent “about a year and eleven months” in Bagram prison, according to al Qaeda Spokesman Abu Yahya al Libi, al Qaeda’s spokesman who also escaped Bagram along with Shami and two other senior operatives.

Al Libi said Shami “played a major role on the jihad battlefields” and was a commander of “groups of mujahideen.”


The Bagram Four:

Abu Abdallah al Shami (upper left); Abu Nasir al Qahtan (upper right); Abu Yahya al Libi (lower left); Omar al Farouq (lower right).

Shami escaped Bagram with al Libi, Abu Nasir al Qahtani, and Omar Farouq. Of the four, al Libi is the only one to remain free.

British special forces killed Omar Farouq in Basrah, Iraq, in September 2006 after attempting to be reassigned to facilitate the flow of money, weapons, and fighters for al Qaeda in Iraq. Farouq was considered to be al Qaeda point man in Southeast Asia prior to his capture in by Indonesian security forces in 2002.

Farouq helped set up the first al Qaeda training camp in Southeast Asia in Mindanao in the Philippines in 1994. In 1999, Farouq took credit for bombing both a mosque and the Philippine ambassador’s house in Jakarta.

US forces recaptured Abu Nasir al Qahtani in Khost province in November 2006. Like Shami, Qahtani was a senior al Qaeda commander in eastern Afghanistan.

After his escape from Bagram, Qahtani fled to North Waziristan to continue attacks against NATO and Afghan forces inside Afghanistan. He joined forces with al Qaeda operative Abu Wafa, who operates from the North Waziristan tribal agency in Pakistan. Wafa and Qahtani were active in the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Paktika. Qahtani also released propaganda and training videos for terrorists operating in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Qahtani’s brother, Abu Dejana al Qahtani, was also killed in eastern Afghanistan this spring.

The fight heats up in eastern Afghanistan

Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their allies have devoted significant resources to the Pakistani-Afghan theater after their venture in Iraq has soured. Numerous reports indicate al Qaeda is refocusing its efforts from Iraq and diverting senior operatives to the region. Al Qaeda in Iraq commander Abu Ayyub al Masri and other senior al Qaeda operatives are thought to have shifted to Pakistan.

With more resources and a safe haven in northwestern Pakistan, the Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terror groups have launched numerous attacks on US and Afghan outposts in the eastern provinces of Zabul, Paktika, Paktia, Khost, Kunar, Nangarhar, and Nuristan. The Taliban are attempting to destabilize the eastern region and overrun Afghan government centers and Coalition bases. The vast majority of these battles end badly for the Taliban, usually with scores of their fighters killed and no US or Afghan casualties taken.

Attacks in the east are up by more than 40 percent from last year, according to the US military. Attacks in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, which border Pakistan, have skyrocketed as well. Attacks have nearly doubled in Kandahar and tripled in Helmand.

Matt Dupee contributed to this report.

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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  • don juice says:

    this is good and if we did take the battle to the tribal areas it would be a historical battle in the war on terror

  • Keith Lambert says:


  • Old Sailor says:

    Strange, isn’t it? If the US or any western army were taking casualties like the Taliban, they would be forced to retreat in embarrassment and shame back to their home countries. But with these cultic zealots, they consider it “success” that they were able to die and go to their “reward” (they think).
    Well, I guess we can only hope that they continue to “enjoy” such “success” :). The only problem is the stupid MSM, which continues to play up the many attacks made by the Taliban, rarely seeming to mention that they’re being slaughtered by the score. You have to wonder whose side they’re on.

  • NS says:

    Score !!

  • Neo says:

    This seems to be background noise on Pakistani political scene. It doesn’t invite the same sharp reaction from the Pakistani media. The “incursions”

  • mjr007 says:

    [Posted by Old Sailor at July 31, 2008 8:48 PM ET:
    You have to wonder whose side they’re on.]
    This question has been unequivocally answered at this point. I stopped wondering whose side the MSM long ago. And it’s not so much siding with the terrorists. It’s siding against the Bush administration and anything it attempts to do or has done, including discounting any of the overwhelming successes our military has achieved.
    But watch, if Obama becomes president, our foreign policy will suddenly become THE most feel-good story of the ages.

  • Old Sailor says:

    mjr007: You took the words right out of my mouth.

  • Marlin says:

    According to an e-mail sent by al-Qaeda to the Pajhwok News Agency (their article is subscriber only) Abu Abdallah al Shami was killed in an airstrike in Paktika province.

    The al-Qaeda network, led by elusive Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, confirmed on Friday the death of a leading commander in an American airstrike in southeastern Afghanistan. Ahmed Suleman, a spokesman for the dreaded organisation, said in a statement emailed to Pajhwok Afghan News the prominent Arab commander perished in the American raid in the volatile Paktika province. Several companions of Abu Abdallah al-Shami – who led Arab, Pakistani, Uzbek and Chechen fighters in the troubled region where violence has escalated in recent months – were also eliminated in the attack.

    The Frontier Post: Al-Qaeda confirms commander’s loss

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 08/04/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.


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