Unconfirmed reports from Pakistan indicate the US has killed al Qaeda’s newly appointed leader of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Sheikh Fateh al Masri, the leader of Qaedat al Jihad fi Khorasan, or the base of the jihad in the Khorasan, was killed in a recent Predator strike, Pakistani intelligence officials told AFP.
US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said they were aware of the reports and were investigating. One US official confirmed that Fateh was targeted in the spate of recent strikes but cautioned that given the total control that the Taliban and al Qaeda have in North Waziristan, it is difficult to be certain Fateh was killed.
Al Qaeda has not released a martyrdom statement announcing Fateh’s death. Such statements are often released on jihadist Internet forums days or weeks after a leader is killed.
Fateh is thought to have been killed in the Sept. 25 strike in Datta Khel in North Waziristan, a known haven for al Qaeda’s top leaders. In that attack, US Predators or Reapers fired three missiles at a vehicle, killing four “militants.”
Datta Khel is administered by Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the Taliban commander for North Waziristan. Despite the fact that Bahadar and the Haqqani Network shelter al Qaeda and other South and Central Asian terror groups, the Pakistani government and military refuse to take action in North Waziristan. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are viewed as “good Taliban” as they do not attack the Pakistani state.
Fatah replaced Mustafa Abu Yazid, al Qaeda’s former leader in Afghanistan, who was killed in the May 21 Predator airstrike in Datta Khel in North Waziristan. Yazid served as al Qaeda’s chief financier and paymaster. Al Qaeda has not publicly named Yazid’s replacement for its top financial official, nor is it likely to do so given the job’s importance, intelligence officials said.
Fateh, like Yazid, is an Egyptian who is close to Ayman al Zawahiri. Egyptians hold a significant number of al Qaeda’s top leadership positions.
The Khorasan is 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.
Mentions of the Khorasan have begun to increase in al Qaeda’s propaganda since 2007. After al Qaeda’s defeat in Iraq, the group began shifting its rhetoric from promoting Iraq as the central front in their jihad and has placed the focus on the Khorasan.