Left: al Qaeda leader Muhammad Abdallah Hasan Abu al Khayr, from his Saudi passport from the 1990s. Right three pictures: photos of a jihadist described as Muhammad Abdallah Hasan Abu al Khayr, who is said to have been killed. Photos from the SITE Intel Group; images above created by The Long War Journal.
A jihadist who shares the same name as Ayman al Zawahir’s deputy and Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law is said to have been killed, according to a post on an al Qaeda-linked forum. The report is unconfirmed, however.
Earlier today, a poster on the Al Fida’ Forum claimed that an operative named Muhammad Abdallah Hasan Abu al Khayr was killed, according to a translation provided by the SITE Intel Group. The online jihadist who posted the eulogy, which is in the form of a poem, did not say where or when Khayr was killed, nor did he say if this was the same Muhammad Abdallah Hasan Abu al Khayr who is a senior deputy to current al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri and who is also a son-in-law of slain al Qaeda emir Osama bin Laden, SITE noted.
Three photos accompanied the post that announced Khayr’s death. SITE also provided a photograph of the Khayr who is associated with Zawahiri and bin Laden, from his Saudi passport from the 1990s [see image above]. It is unclear if the two men are one and the same, although they do bear a resemblance to each other.
While the Al Fida’ Forum is used by al Qaeda to publish official announcements, the statement announcing Khayr’s martyrdom was not released by an official al Qaeda media outlet, such as As Sahab. Al Qaeda usually announces the deaths of top leaders through its official media outlets, in the form of a video or audio tape, or a written martyrdom statement, often accompanied by photographs of the slain leaders.
Background on al Qaeda leader Muhammad Abdallah Hasan Abu al Khayr
It remains unclear if today’s statement announcing the death of Khayr is accurate, and if this is the same Khayr who is a top al Qaeda leader.
In August 2010, the US added Muhammad Abdallah Hasan Abu al Khayr to its list of specially designated global terrorists under Executive Order 13224. At the same time, Khayr was also added to the UN’s 1267 sanctions list for al Qaeda and Taliban individuals.
When he was added to the terrorist list, Khayr was described by the Treasury as “a key leader of the terrorist organization’s finance section” who “also acts for al Qaeda in a leadership role on the media committee.” He is also known to have recruited at least one member to join al Qaeda.
Khayr’s links to al Qaeda go directly to the top of the terror organization. He is Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law and has also served as one of bin Laden’s bodyguards as a member of the Black Guard, al Qaeda’s elite bodyguard unit for its senior leaders. Several senior al Qaeda leaders — such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Saif al Adel, and Walid bin Attash — rose through the ranks in al Qaeda by serving in the Black Guard.
In addition, Khayr is also a senior aide to Ayman al Zawahiri. Khayr is believed to be based in Pakistan along with other top al Qaeda leaders, and is thought to travel to and from Iran with other top al Qaeda leaders.
The US and the UN both designated Khayr as a terrorist in an attempt to disrupt al Qaeda’s financial operations after the death of Mustafa Abu Yazid, al Qaeda’s top financial official and also its leader in Afghanistan. Yazid was killed in a US airstrike in North Waziristan in May 2010.
“After the death in May of Mustafa Abu al Yazid, who essentially served as al Qaeda’s chief financial officer, we will continue to work with our allies to target those like al Khayr who could step into al Yazid’s shoes,” Stuart Levey, the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in the Treasury press release from August 2010.
Khayr was also placed on the list of 85 most wanted terrorists that was released in 2009 by the government of Saudi Arabia.
Khayr is also known as Abu Khayr al Masri. He is known to travel between Iran and Pakistan. In May 2010, The Associated Press reported that Khayr traveled from Iran to Pakistan with Saad bin Laden, Osama’s son.
Just yesterday, the US Treasury Department noted that Iran and al Qaeda have a “secret deal” that allows al Qaeda “to funnel funds and operatives through its [Iran’s] territory.” Treasury stated that the al Qaeda network “headed by Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, a prominent Iran-based al Qaeda facilitator” is “operating under an agreement between al Qaeda and the Iranian government.” [See LWJ report, Treasury targets Iran’s ‘secret deal’ with al Qaeda.]
Iran is known to support al Qaeda and Taiban operations in Afghanistan. The Qods Force, the special operations branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, has tasked the Ansar Corps, a subcommand, with aiding the Taliban and other terror groups in Afghanistan. Based in Mashad in northeastern Iran, the Ansar Corps operates much like the Ramazan Corps, which supports and directs Shia terror groups in Iraq.
The US government has sanctioned the Ansar Corps’ commander for aiding the Taliban. On Aug. 6, 2010, General Hossein Musavi, the commander of the Ansar Corps, was one of two Qods Force commanders added to the US Treasury’s list of specially designated global terrorists, for directly providing support to the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.