A banner from As Sahab announcing the death of top al Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu Yazid.
Al Qaeda has announced that its top leader in Afghanistan and chief financial official was killed in a US airstrike in Pakistan 10 days ago.
Mustafa Abu Yazid, who is also known as Sheikh Saeed al Masri, was killed in the May 21 Predator strike in the village of Mohammed Khel in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. Datta Khel is a known al Qaeda hub in North Waziristan.
As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, released a statement tonight announcing Yazid’s death on Al Ansar, a jihadist forum.
Rumors of Yazid’s death were first reported by ABC News, which quoted US officials who said a eulogy for Yazid was to be released by As Sahab.
The statement, released on the Al Ansar forum, described Yazid as a “martyr” and claimed he was killed in a “convoy of martyrs on the road with his wife and three daughters and his granddaughter, men, women and children, neighbors and loved ones.”
Al Qaeda described Yazid as the “commander of its experienced leaders, master of masters, prince of financial princes, distinguished sheikh, and triumphant hero Mustafa Abu Yazid, the commander in chief of al Qaeda in Afghanistan.”
Yazid is one of al Qaeda’s most important leaders, and he will be difficult to replace. He served as al Qaeda’s leader in Afghanistan and in what the terror group refers to as the Khorasan, a region that encompasses large areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Iran. The Khorasan is considered by jihadists to be the place where they will inflict the first defeat against their enemies in the Muslim version of Armageddon. The final battle is to take place in the Levant – Israel, Syria, and Lebanon.
The 9-11 Commission identified Yazid as al Qaeda’s “chief financial manager.” In this role, Yazid was responsible for disbursing al Qaeda funds from what is known as the Bayt al Mal, al Qaeda’s treasury. This responsibility made Yazid one of the most trusted and important al Qaeda leaders. Because of this responsibility, Yazid is considered by some analysts to be al Qaeda’s third in command.
Yazid was born on Dec. 17, 1955, in Egypt, according to Geo TV, which interviewed Yazid in August 2008. He was a founding member of Ayman al Zawahiri’s branch of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, one of the original groups that merged to form al Qaeda. Following the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981, Yazid was implicated in the crime along with Zawahiri and others, and they spent time in jail together.
He also served as a top propagandist for al Qaeda and the Taliban. Yazid has appeared on propaganda tapes with senior Taliban leaders, and has announced the deaths of top al Qaeda leaders and operatives over the years.
Yazid is arguably the most senior al Qaeda leader to be killed in the US air campaign to date. Other top al Qaeda leaders killed in US strikes in Pakistan include: Abu Hamza Rabia, al Qaeda’s operational commander (killed in 2005); Abu Laith al Libi, the top military commander (killed in 2008); Abu Sulayman Jazairi, the chief of al Qaeda’s external network (killed in 2008); Khalid Habib, the top military commander (killed in 2008); Abu Jihad al Masri, the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Group and the top intelligence chief (killed in 2008); Abu Khabab al Masri, al Qaeda’s WMD chief and top bomb maker (killed in 2008); Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban (killed in 2009); and Saleh al Somali, the leader of al Qaeda’s external network (killed in 2009). [For a full list, see LWJ Special Report, “Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010“]
Yazid was killed in Datta Khel, a region administered by North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar. Al Qaeda and allied Pakistani and Central Asian jihadist groups shelter in Bahadar’s tribal areas, and they also run training camps and safe houses in the region.
Despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign groups in North Waziristan, the Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on Bahadar or the Haqqani Network, a deadly Taliban group that is closely allied with al Qaeda. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.