US troops killed several al Qaeda fighters and captured two more during a raid two days ago that targeted a Taliban commander in southeastern Afghanistan. Two passports, from Saudi Arabia and France, were recovered during the raid, a US military officer told The Long War Journal.
The raid took place in the district of Qalat in Zabul province on May 8. Coalition and Afghan special operations teams targeted a Taliban facilitator who “coordinates movement of weapons, improvised explosive devices, and IED materials to other insurgents in the district,” the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release.
During the operation, the combined special operation teams were “engaged by multiple groups of insurgents,” which sparked a battle that resulted in the death of “numerous insurgents” and the capture of two more. During a search, ISAF and Afghan forces found a cache of weapons and “passports from several different countries indicating the presence of multiple foreign fighters.”
In a follow-up inquiry by The Long War Journal, an ISAF public affairs officer said that two passports from Saudi Arabia and France had been recovered.
“Two passports were found, one was a Saudi Arabian and one was French,” the ISAF public affairs officer told The Long War Journal.
“They were affiliated with al Qaeda,” another ISAF public affairs official said.
ISAF would not provide the names or the images on the passports, nor would it disclose the number of suspected al Qaeda fighters killed during the operation. A US intelligence official familiar with the operation said that 10 enemy fighters, some of whom were Arabs, were killed.
Afghan defense officials said one Frenchman and one Moroccan were captured, and five terrorists, including two Pakistanis, were killed.
Zabul province is a known haven for al Qaeda in the Afghan southeast. Al Qaeda’s presence in Zabul has been detected in the districts of Shah Joy, Shamulzai, and Qalat; or three of Zabul’s 11 districts, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal. The province is an ideal staging and transit point for al Qaeda and allied groups operating from Pakistan. Zabul shares a border with Pakistan, and also borders the Afghan provinces of Uruzgan, Kandahar, Ghazni, and Paktika.
Coalition and Afghan forces have targeted several al Qaeda cells in Zabul since October 2008. In July 2010, security forces killed Malauwi Shahbuddin, a Taliban commander and “foreign-fighter facilitator,” during a raid in Shah Joy. In October 2010, Mullah Abdullah Kakar, another Taliban commander and “foreign-fighter facilitator,” was killed in an airstrike, also in Shah Joy. ISAF uses the term “foreign fighters” to describe members of al Qaeda and allied terror groups operating in Afghanistan.
Recent clashes with al Qaeda fighters in the east contradict claims that al Qaeda has only 50 to 100 operatives in Afghanistan. These claims have been made by top US intelligence and military leaders, including most recently by General David Petraeus, the commander of ISAF.
On May 3, Afghan troops killed and wounded more than 25 al Qaeda fighters in the Barg-e-Matal district in Nuristan. On April 14, an ISAF airstrike killed several al Qaeda leaders and fighters, including Waqas, a Pakistani commander, and Abu Hafs al Najdi, a Saudi emir.
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