Two al Qaeda commanders are reported to have been killed in Monday’s drone strike in the Mir Ali area of Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The report of the al Qaeda commanders’ deaths has not been confirmed.
Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an al Qaeda leader who serves as a key link to the Taliban and supports al Qaeda’s external operations network, and Fateh al Turki, a previously unidentified leader, are said to have been killed in the Sept. 24 airstrike in the Mir Ali area, Pakistani intelligence officials, Taliban commanders, and local tribesmen told Dawn. Between five and six people were reportedly killed in the drone strike on a compound.
Abu Kasha and Fateh are said to have been buried in the Mosaki area of North Waziristan, according to Dawn.
US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said they are aware of the reports of the deaths of the two al Qaeda leaders but cannot confirm that the terrorists were killed in the strike.
Intelligence officials would neither confirm nor deny that Abu Kasha and Fateh were the targets of the strike, but one official said that Abu Kasha “has been on our list for quite some time.”
The US has targeted Abu Kasha and his network several times since the drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas was ramped up in the summer of 2008. Abu Kasha was rumored to have been killed in an attack in North Waziristan in October 2008, but Taliban fighters said he survived the strike and “is healthy and very much in his routine.”
Abu Kasha, an Iraqi national also known as Abu Akash, entered North Waziristan sometime in 2001 and established a network in the Mir Ali area. He has close links to the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and other Pakistani Taliban groups, a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal in January 2007. He serves as the key link between al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive council, and the Taliban.
His responsibilities have expanded to include helping to facilitate al Qaeda’s external operations against the West, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal in October 2008.
Abu Kasha commands two Pakistanis, Imanullah and Haq Nawaz Dawar, who administer al Qaeda’s network in Mir Ali. Abu Kasha also has a working relationship and close communication with the Uzbek terror groups, including the Islamic Jihad Group (or the Islamic Jihad Union) run by Najimuddin al Uzbeki, who also operates out of North Waziristan.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.