The Coalition confirmed that a second leader of the Pakistan-based, al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Taiba died in a recent airstrike in Kunar that also killed the terror group’s leader for the eastern Afghan province.
Ammar, a “Lashkar-e-Taiba insurgent leader” was killed in the June 29 airstrike in the Watahpur district in Kunar, the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release. Ammar was killed in the same airstrike that also killed Khatab Shafiq, a Pakistani citizen who served as Lashkar-e-Taiba’s leader for Kunar province. “Several other armed insurgents” who have not been named were also killed in the same strike.
Ammar “managed a network of insurgents and directed attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout the province,” ISAF stated. “His nationality is not confirmed at this time,” ISAF’s Joint Command told The Long War Journal.
Pakistan’s military and its Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate support Lashkar-e-Taiba as part of Pakistan’s so-called strategic depth against rival India. Lashkar-e-Taiba is thought to have a presence in several of Afghanistan’s eastern provinces, including, Kunar, Nuristan, Nangarhar, Laghman, Paktia, Paktika, Khost, and Kabul, and is known to have operated training camps in Kunar and Paktia prior to the US invasion in the fall of 2001 after al Qaeda’s attack on the US.
The Watahpur district in Kunar appears to have emerged as a key hub for al Qaeda and allied terror groups, such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba. In addition to Ammar and Shafiq, ISAF has killed two al Qaeda leaders in Watahpur in the past five weeks. On July 1, an airstrike killed Hanzallah, a Saudi national “who acted as a military advisor to insurgents in Kunar, Nuristan, and Laghman provinces and provided them with improvised explosive device training.” Several other unidentified al Qaeda operatives were also said to had been killed in the strike.
And on May 28, an ISAF airstrike killed Sakhr al Taifi, a Saudi al Qaeda leader who was also known as Musthaq and Nasim, and another unnamed al Qaeda fighter. Al Taifi served as al Qaeda’s second in command in Afghanistan, according to ISAF.
Al Qaeda’s leader in Kunar and neighboring Nuristan province has been identified as Farouq al Qahtani, according to a classified US military assessment that was leaked to The New York Times in February. The assessment, which was based on prisoner interrogations, said that al Qaeda maintains “a small haven” in Kunar and Nuristan.
For more information on Kunar province and the al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba presence there, see LWJ reports, ISAF targets al Qaeda leader in Kunar, and ISAF kills Lashkar-e-Taiba’s leader for Kunar in airstrike.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.