Al Qaeda operative killed in South Waziristan strike

A senior al Qaeda operative was killed along with a Taliban commander in last week’s airstrike in Pakistan’s lawless tribal agency of South Waziristan.

The Al Fajr Media Center, a jihadist propaganda outlet, announced the death of Osama bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Damjan al Dawsari in a statement released today on jihadist forums. The Al Fajr Media Center “is the official online logistical network responsible for disseminating messages from various al Qaeda military factions, including the ‘Islamic State of Iraq’ and Osama bin Laden himself,” according to the NEFA Foundation.

Dawsari was killed in the May 28 airstrike in the Nezai Narai area in South Waziristan, the first in the tribal agency this year. Ten other people were reported killed in the strike, which took place in a region run by ‘good Taliban’ leader Mullah Nazir. Nazir is the leader of the Taliban forces in the western Waziri tribal areas of the agency.

At the time of the strike, Dawsari was conducting a meeting with a local Taliban leader known as Omar Khaitab, Dawn reported. Khaitab, who is “a close associate of militant commander Maulvi Nazir,” was also killed in the strike.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal described Dawsari as “an important liaison” between al Qaeda fighters sheltering in Nazir’s tribal areas and the local Taliban.

Dawsari also coordinated al Qaeda operations across the border in Afghanistan. He may have played a role in the Dec. 30, 2009, suicide attack inside Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, that killed seven CIA officers and guards, and a Jordanian intelligence officer. The slain intelligence operatives had been involved in gathering intelligence for the hunt for al Qaeda and Taliban leaders along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Dawsari is the second senior al Qaeda leader reported killed in the past week. Al Qaeda announced the death of top leader Mustafa Abu Yazid on May 31. Yazid, who served as al Qaeda’s finance chief and the leader of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the wider Khorasan, a region that included parts of western Pakistan, eastern Iran, and several Central Asian countries, was killed in the May 21 airstrike in the Datta Khel region in North Waziristan.

Yazid is the most senior al Qaeda leader to have been killed in a US Predator strike in Pakistan since the program began in 2004. [For more information, see LWJ Special Report, “Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010,” and “Top al Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu Yazid confirmed killed in airstrike in North Waziristan.”]

Nazir and the ‘good Taliban’

The death of Dawsari in Nazir’s territory exposes the problems with Pakistan’s selectively targeting some elements of the Taliban and Pakistani jihadist groups while ignoring others.

Pakistan’s military and intelligence services consider Nazir and his followers ‘good Taliban’ as they do not openly seek the overthrow of the Pakistani state. However, Nazir openly supports Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, and wages jihad in Afghanistan; more senior al Qaeda leaders have been killed in Nazir’s tribal areas during the US air campaign than in those of any other Taliban leader in Pakistan.

Earlier this year, just prior to launching a military operation against the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, led by Hakeemullah Mehsud, in the Mehsud tribal areas in South Waziristan, the military agreed to a peace deal with Nazir as well as with North Waziristan Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar. Nazir and Bahadar, as well as the powerful Haqqani Network, which is based in North Waziristan, are not members of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

The peace agreement allows for the Pakistani military to move through Nazir and Bahadar’s tribal areas without being attacked. Another condition of the agreement prohibits Bahadar and Nazir from providing shelter to fleeing members of the Mehsud branch of the Taliban.

But Taliban fighters from the Mehsud tribal areas have sought shelter with Mullah Nazir in the Waziri tribal areas, and the rearguard fighters still opposing the Army’s advance are receiving support from Nazir’s forces, US military and intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal. Bahadar, too, has provided shelter to fleeing Taliban fighters and covert support to the Mehsud Taliban. Hakeemullah and allied Punjabi Taliban groups are said to have agreed to leave North Waziristan and returned to South Waziristan in an effort to stave off a military offensive against Bahadar and the Haqqani Network.

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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