Qari Mohammad Zafar, a leader of the Fedayeen-i-Islam.
The Taliban confirmed that a terrorist leader who was behind multiple terror attacks in Pakistan and was wanted by the US for murdering a consular official in Karachi was killed in an airstrike in North Waziristan last week.
The Taliban released a statement confirming that Qari Mohammad Zafar, a leader of the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Fedayeen-i-Islam, was killed in the Feb. 24 airstrike in the town of Dargi Mandi near North Waziristan’s main town of Miramshah. The strike hit a vehicle and a compound run by the Haqqani Network; between eight and 13 terrorists were reported killed in the attack.
The Taliban vowed to avenge Zafar’s death, and said they would strike against the Pakistani government.
”The mujahideen will soon take revenge against the Pakistani government for his killing anywhere in the country,” the Taliban said in a statement faxed to the local Pakistani media, Dawn reported.
Rumors of Zafar’s death first surfaced on Feb. 25, one day after the attack, but the reports could not be confirmed. US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said the best evidence of Zafar’s death would come from the Taliban themselves, as the region is outside of Pakistani government control.
Zafar was a dangerous terrorist leader who was wanted for several deadly attacks inside Pakistan [background on Zafar and his terror alliance is below]. The US has been actively hunting terror leaders such as Zafar in Pakistan’s tribal areas, specifically in North Waziristan, a hub of terror activity.
Unmanned US Predator and Reaper strike aircraft have been pounding Taliban and al Qaeda hideouts in North Waziristan over the past several months in an effort to kill senior terror leaders and disrupt the networks that threaten Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the West. Since Dec. 8, 2009, the air campaign in Pakistan has killed four senior al Qaeda leaders, a senior Taliban commander, two senior al Qaeda operatives, and a wanted Palestinian terrorist who was allied with al Qaeda. The status of several others – a top Pakistani Taliban leader, a member of al Qaeda’s top council, and a wanted Philippine terrorist – is still unknown.
Already this year, the US has killed Mansur al Shami, an al Qaeda ideologue and aide to al Qaeda’s leader in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu Yazid; Haji Omar Khan, a senior Taliban leader in North Waziristan; Mohammed Haqqani, a military commander in the Haqqani Network; and Sheikh Mansoor, an al Qaeda Shadow Army commander. Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim, the Abu Nidal Organization operative who participated in killing 22 hostages during the 1986 hijacking of Pan Am flight 73, is thought to have been killed in the Jan. 9 airstrike.
The status of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, is still unknown; the Taliban released a videotape of him on March 1 but it did not confirm he was alive. On March 1, a rumor surfaced that Abdul Haq al Turkistani, the leader of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party and a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, was killed in a strike on Feb. 15. And Abdul Basit Usman, an Abu Sayyaf operative with a $1 million US bounty for information leading to his capture, is rumored to have been killed in a strike on Jan. 14, although a Philippine military spokesman said Usman is likely still alive and in the Philippines.
In December 2009, the US killed Abdullah Said al Libi, the top commander of the Shadow Army; Zuhaib al Zahib, a senior commander in the Shadow Army; and Saleh al Somali, the leader of al Qaeda’s external network [see LWJ report, “Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010” for the full list of leaders and operatives thought to have been killed in US strikes].
Background on Qari Mohammad Zafar and the Fedayeen-e-Islam
Zafar was wanted by the US government for his involvement in the Karachi Consulate bombing in 2006, which resulted in the death of three Pakistanis and a consular official. “Zafar is suspected of being a key figure involved with this attack,” according to the Rewards for Justice website page. The US offered a $5 million reward for information leading the capture of Zafar.
Zafar was a senior leader of the Fedayeen-e-Islam, an alliance between the Pakistani Taliban, the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Jaish-e-Mohammed [see LWJ report, “Terror alliance takes credit for Peshawar hotel assault” ]. The group was based in the Mehsud tribal areas in South Waziristan but fled the region after the Pakistani military began an offensive there in October 2009.
Other senior leaders of the Fedayeen-e-Islam include Qari Hussain Mehsud, the notorious Taliban commander who trains child suicide bombers; Asmatullah Moaviya, another senior aide to Baitullah who was reportedly arrested in Mianwali in Punjab province; and Rana Afzal.
The Fedayeen-e-Islam took credit for some of the more deadly attacks in Pakistan, including the September 2008 suicide attack on the Islamabad Marriott Hotel, the March 2009 storming of a police station in Lahore, and the June 2009 suicide assault on the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar.
Zafar was also closely linked to Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the leader of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami. Zafar and Akhtar are thought to have been the main leaders of the September 2008 suicide attack on the Marriott hotel in Islamabad.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.