The Coalition confirmed that an al Qaeda military commander from Saudi Arabia was killed in Sunday’s airstrike in Kunar province that killed “several” al Qaeda operatives.
The International Security Assistance Force said that a Saudi known as Hanzallah was killed in the July 1 airstrike in the Watahpur district in the remote northeastern province of Kunar.
“Hanzallah was a Saudi national and al Qaeda leader who acted as a military advisor to insurgents in Kunar, Nuristan and Laghman provinces and provided them with improvised explosive device training,” ISAF stated in a press release. “Hanzallah was one of several al-Qaida terrorists killed during the security operation.”
ISAF announced the raid that targeted Hanzallah yesterday in a press release, and stated that “numerous” insurgents were killed in the operation [see LWJ report, ISAF targets al Qaeda leader in Kunar]. ISAF did not provide the identities of the other al Qaeda operatives who were killed in the strike.
Hanzallah is not listed on any of Saudi Arabia’s four lists of most-wanted terrorists.
Al Qaeda operatives and leaders often serve as embedded military trainers for Taliban field units and impart tactics and bombmaking skills to these forces. In addition, al Qaeda frequently supports the Taliban by funding operations and providing weapons and other aid. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda’s paramilitary ‘Shadow Army’ for more information on al Qaeda’s role in Afghanistan.]
Saudis are known to have held senior al Qaeda leadership positions in Kunar province. ISAF has killed four other Saudi leaders in Kunar since the summer of 2010.
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.
In April 2011, ISAF killed Abu Hafs al Najdi, al Qaeda’s operations chief for Kunar who was wanted by the Saudi government.
And in September 2010, ISAF killed Abdallah Umar al Qurayshi and Sa’ad Mohammad al Shahri. Al Qurayshi was a senior al Qaeda commander who coordinated the attacks of a group of Arab fighters in Kunar and Nuristan provinces and also maintained extensive contacts with al Qaeda facilitators throughout the Middle East. Al Shahri was a longtime jihadist and the son of a retired Saudi colonel.
Kunar is a key al Qaeda hub in Afghanistan
Watahpur appears to have emerged as a key hub for al Qaeda and allied terror groups, such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Three senior al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders have been killed in airstrikes in Watahpur over the last five weeks.
In addition to Hanzallah and Taifi, ISAF killed Khatab Shafiq, a Pakistani citizen who served as the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s senior leader in Kunar province. Shafiq, who was killed in an airstrike on on June 30, established training camps, taught weapons classes, and funded operations.
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.