Two senior leaders of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the newest branch of the global jihadist group, were killed in a recent US operation along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, AQIS’ spokesman announced yesterday. One of those killed was a former Pakistani Army officer who had been directly linked to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, an architect of 9/11. The other operative was a doctor who also served as a AQIS propagandist.
Usama Mahmood, the spokesman for AQIS, announced the death of the two leaders in a series of statements that were released today on his Twitter account. The tweets were obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Mahmood announced the “Martyrdom of Dr. Sarbaland (Abu Khalid) with his two young sons, [and] his brother-in-law, a former major in the Pakistani Army Adil Abdul Quoos.” He described Qudoos and Sarbaland as “senior leaders of the group.”
The two AQIS leaders and the two boys were killed “as a result of an American drop on the Afghan border, followed by bombing from spy aircraft” Mahmood claimed.
According to Xinhua, they were killed in a “drone strike along the [Pakistan-Afghanistan] border on November 9.” No strikes were reported in Pakistan on Nov. 9, but there was a strike in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan on Nov. 11. If US ground forces were involved in the raid, then the operation may have taken place in Afghanistan, as US troops are not reported to have entered Pakistani territory.
Qudoos was known to be active in jihadist circles in the early 2000s while he served as a major in the Pakistani Army’s signal corps. He is said to have owned the home in the garrison city of Rawalpindi where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was arrested during a joint US and Pakistani raid in early 2003. Qudoos’ father and brother lived in the residence at the time. His father, Abdul Qudoos Khan, is a doctor who is reported to have been a leader in the pro-Taliban and al Qaeda Jamaat-i-Islami political party; he may have known Osama bin Laden while living in Sudan in the 1990s.
Major Qudoos was arrested in March 2003 along with two colonels, Abdul Ghaffar and Khalid Abbasi, and charged by the Pakistani military with subversive activities. “One of the charges they faced was facilitation of al Qaeda-linked fighters,” Imtiaz Gul wrote in his book, Pakistan, Before and After Osama. “They had also put associates of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind arrested from Rawalpindi in 2003, at army’s hostels.”
After a conviction, the former Pakistani major was sentenced to six years in prison. He was released in 2008 and quickly “immigrated with his family to the fields of jihad until Allah blessed him with martyrdom,” Mahmood wrote.
The AQIS spokesman described Sarbaland as both “a skillful surgeon and a strategic ideologue for the group, and he provided many services to the Pakistani and Afghan jihad.”
The US has killed one other AQIS leader since the group was founded at the end of the summer. On Oct. 11, the US killed Sheikh Imran Ali Siddiqi (a.k.a. Haji Shaikh Waliullah), a veteran AQIS leader who had a pedigree in Pakistani jihadist circles. The strike, which took place in North Waziristan, also killed a “good Taliban” commander who served in the Hafiz Gul Bahadar group. [See LWJ reports, US drone strike kills veteran jihadist turned senior AQIS official and AQIS leader, ‘good Taliban’ commander killed in 2 US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas.]
Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent was formed on Sept. 3 and includes elements of some of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India’s most prominent jihadist groups. Since its formation, AQIS claimed credit for a Sept. 6 attack on a Pakistani naval vessel. During the operation, jihadists attempted to hijack the ship and fire missiles at US warships in the Indian Ocean. According to both the terrorist group and Pakistan’s defense minister, Pakistani naval officers were complicit in the attack. [See LWJ Report, AQIS claims plot to strike US warships was executed by Pakistani Navy officers.]