An al Qaeda military commander and a Haqqani Network leader are among 17 jihadists reported to have been killed in a US drone strike that took place earlier this week.
The al Qaeda commander, who was identified as Abu Saif al Jaziri, and Maulana Akhtar Zadran, a Haqqani Network officer, were killed in the July 2 drone strike in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan, the Urdu-language Karachi Express News Television reported.
Two other “militant commanders,” who were identified as Rana Ashraf from Sargodha and Navid Butt from Lahore, are also reported to have been killed in the US attack.
The deaths of al Jaziri, Zadran, Ashraf, and Butt have not been confirmed. Al Qaeda and the Haqqani Network often do not announce the deaths of military commanders.
US intelligence officials who track al Qaeda in the region told The Long War Journal that they are aware of the reports of the deaths of the jihadist leaders, but would neither confirm nor deny them.
One US intelligence official said that al Jaziri is a “mid-level paramilitary commander” who works with the Haqqani Network in the region. Al Jaziri is from Algeria, the official said.
Al Jaziri is a commander in the Lashkar-al-Zil, or the Shadow Army, al Qaeda’s paramilitary force that fields small conventional units in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and also embeds military trainers within Taliban units in both countries. These trainers provide instructions for battling security forces in local insurgencies as well as knowledge, expertise, funding, and resources to conduct local and international attacks. The US Treasury Department officially acknowledged the existence of this unit when it added one such Pakistan-based trainer and commander of al Qaeda’s “paramilitary brigades” to the list of global terrorists in June. [For more information on this unit, see LWJ report, Al Qaeda’s paramilitary ‘Shadow Army,’ from February 2009.]
Akhtar Zadran is a senior Haqqani Network commander, another intelligence official who follows the group told The Long War Journal.
Akhtar Zadran is from the same tribe as Mullah Sangeen Zadran, the Haqqani Network commander who is thought to be holding Bowe Bergdahl, the US soldier who was captured in Afghanistan four years ago. Mullah Sangeen serves as a senior lieutenant to Sirajuddin Haqqani and as the Taliban’s shadow governor for Paktika province in Afghanistan. Mullah Sangeen was added to the list of designated terrorists on Aug. 16, 2011.
US military officials have told The Long War Journal that Sangeen is considered to be one of the most dangerous operational commanders in eastern Afghanistan. Sangeen has organized numerous assaults on US and Afghan combat outposts in the region. Sangeen has professed his support for al Qaeda, and recently called on Turkish and Kurdish jihadists to join the fight in Afghanistan and elsewhere. His fighters often conduct joint operations with al Qaeda.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.