Al Qaeda-linked fighters killed in airstrike in Kunar

Special operations forces killed several “al Qaeda associated insurgents” in an airstrike in a district in eastern Afghanistan that has served as a key hub for terror groups in Afghanistan.

The airstrike was launched after a combined Afghan and Coalition special operations team clashed with “a group of al Qaeda associated insurgents” during a raid yesterday in the Watahpur district in Kunar province, the International Security Assistance Force stated in the press release.

“After the strike, the combined security force conducted a follow-on assessment and confirmed the strike had killed several of the insurgents,” ISAF stated. The identity of those killed and their affiliation was not disclosed by ISAF. Al Qaeda, the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other terror groups are known to operate in Kunar. ISAF has recently killed senior al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders in Watahpur.

In a separate operation, special operations forces launched a second airstrike in Watahpur yesterday, ISAF stated in the same press release. The strike took place after the combined team engaged “a group of heavily armed insurgents.” ISAF said that “multiple insurgents had been killed and several of the heavy weapons had been destroyed.”

The Watahpur district in Kunar appears to have emerged as an important hub for al Qaeda and allied terror groups, such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba. ISAF has killed two al Qaeda leaders and two Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders in Watahpur since the end of May.

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 have been killed in the strike.

On June 29, an ISAF airstrike killed Khatab Shafiq, a Pakistani citizen who served as Lashkar-e-Taiba’s leader for Kunar province, and Ammar, another commander for the terror group.

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.



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