Unconfirmed reports from Pakistan indicate that a senior al Qaeda military commander was killed and the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was wounded during clashes in the tribal areas.
Qari Zia Rahman, a senior al Qaeda military commander who operates along the Afghan-Pakistani border, was reported to have been killed during fighting in the Bajaur tribal agency, while Tahir Yuldashev was reported to have been wounded during an airstrike in South Waziristan.
US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal the reports that Yuldashev was wounded are credible, but would not comment on the reports that Rahman was killed.
Rahman was reported killed as Pakistani security forces battled the Taliban in the Charmang region in Bajaur, according to the South Asian News Agency. Geo News reported that a “foreign commander” was among four “militants” killed during fighting in the region, but did not identify Rahman as the commander.
Qari Zia Rahman is an al Qaeda leader who operates in Pakistan’s Bajaur tribal agency as well as in Afghanistan’s Nuristan and Kunar provinces. He is allied with Faqir Mohammed, the leader of the Taliban in Bajaur, as well as overall Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and Osama bin Laden. Rahman’s fighters are from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and various Arab nations. He commands a brigade in al Qaeda’s paramilitary Shadow Army, or the Lashkar al Zil, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.
The Pakistani military launched attacks against the Taliban in the Mamond and Charmang regions in Bajaur late last week after the Taliban failed to adhere to a ceasefire signed with the military in March. The Taliban regrouped in Mamond and Charmang after the ceasefire.
Two of the conditions of the ceasefire required the Taliban to end patrolling in the region and to turn over Bajaur Taliban leader Faqir Mohammed. Instead, the Taliban have continued to bear arms in Bajaur, and Faqir Mohammed remains free. After the government had agreed to a ceasefire, he appeared in Swat with senior Taliban leaders and government officials and vowed to impose sharia, or Islamic law.
Tahir Yuldashev reported wounded during fighting
Yuldashev was wounded during a “skirmish” with Pakistani troops, according to the South Asian News Agency. He was sheltering in the tribal area run by Baitullah when he was wounded. Pakistani troops conducted artillery strikes in the Kotkai, Spinkai Raghzai, and Sararogha regions in South Waziristan earlier today.
Yuldashev is the leader of the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. He is known to operate out of South Waziristan and is close to Baitullah, Mullah Nazir, and Osama bin Laden.
It is estimated that Yuldashev commands more than 4,000 Uzbek and other Central Asian fighters in Pakistan’s tribal areas as well as in Afghanistan.
The US believes it wounded Yuldashev during a Predator strike late last year. On Oct. 31, 2008, the US targeted South Waziristan Taliban warlord Mullah Nazir and Yuldashev in a strike near Wana. Nazir was wounded in that attack. Yuldashev was initially thought to have been killed but reports later surfaced that he survived the attack.
Today’s reports indicating that Yuldashev was wounded emerge as the world is bracing for an offensive in South Waziristan. The target of the looming offensive appears to be Baitullah Mehsud; there is no talk about taking on Taliban leaders Hafiz Gul Bahadar and Mullah Nazir, or the Haqqani Network, however.