Jihadists on Twitter are claiming that a Saudi al Qaeda operative named Adel Radi Saker al Wahabi al Harbi was recently killed in Syria. The US Treasury Department designated al Harbi as a terrorist in October 2012, saying that he was “a key member of an al Qaeda network operating in Iran” at the time. The State Department offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his location.
According to several well-connected jihadists on social media, however, al Harbi relocated to Syria.
Al Harbi’s alleged death has not been confirmed by any official sources. Neither al Qaeda, nor the Al Nusrah Front, its official branch in Syria, has publicly commented on the reports of his demise.
Jihadists first claimed on April 16 that al Harbi had been killed. The details of his reported death are murky. One of the jihadists commenting on al Harbi’s “martyrdom” is an al Qaeda supporter who goes by the handle @ALseaase on Twitter. Still other jihadists have posted pictures purportedly showing al Harbi after he was killed, along with photos showing him when he was alive. Al Harbi is pictured holding children in two images. In another, he is laying in a field.
The photos of al Harbi are included at the end of this article. (One image of al Harbi is also included above.)
Al Harbi’s relocation to Syria from Iran makes sense, because his boss inside al Qaeda did the same.
When the US Treasury Department designated al Harbi in late 2012, it noted that he worked for Muhsin al Fadhli, a Kuwaiti who led al Qaeda’s network inside Iran. Al Harbi is “a key member of an al Qaeda network operating in Iran and led by Iran-based al Qaeda facilitator Muhsin al Fadhli,” Treasury noted.
Al Fadhli took over control of the Iran-based network from Yasin al Suri, who was designated by the US Treasury Department in July 2011. Months later, in December of 2011, the State Department announced a reward of $10 million for information leading to al Suri’s whereabouts.
The public scrutiny of al Suri’s al Qaeda role inside Iran led to some reshuffling by the terror network. Al Fadhli assumed the top spot in al Qaeda’s Iran-based operation in late 2011. But he eventually relocated to Syria, becoming a leading member of al Qaeda’s so-called Khorasan Group. Al Suri then resumed his leadership role inside Iran.
Al Harbi served as al Fadhli’s deputy inside Iran. In that capacity, according to Treasury, al Harbi facilitated “the travel of extremists to Afghanistan or Iraq via Iran on behalf of al Qaeda, and is believed to have sought funds to support al Qaeda attacks.”
Al Harbi joined al Qaeda’s network in Iran in 2011, but he was already a jihadist veteran at that time. He was previously added to Saudi Arabia’s Most Wanted List. The Saudi Ministry of Interior charged al Harbi with “traveling to Afghanistan to join al Qaeda and providing technical support on the Internet to the terrorist group.”
In September 2014, the U.S. military targeted al Fadhli and other senior members of the Khorasan Group, who were suspected of planning mass casualty attacks in the West. Al Fadhli was reportedly killed, but his death was never publicly confirmed. There are conflicting accounts of his status.
It makes sense that al Harbi would have relocated to Syria along with al Fadhli, given the tight working relationship between the two.
Jihadists are using a hashtag to commemorate al Harbi’s “martyrdom.”
Photos posted online purportedly showing al Harbi before and after his death
The following two pictures allegedly show al Harbi after he was killed:
The image below was created by a Twitter user. It shows al Harbi in the lower right-hand corner. The other three images all show recently deceased al Qaeda “martyrs.” A picture of Abu Muhammad al Dagestani, the slain emir of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, is included in the upper left hand corner. The upper right hand corner includes a photo of Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari, an influential Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) ideologue who was killed in a US drone strike in January. Ibrahim Rubaish, an AQAP sharia official who was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen earlier this month, is shown in the lower left hand corner. Al Harbi is pictured climbing into an armored vehicle in the bottom right hand image:
In these two photos, al Harbi is holding small children:
Other photos of al Harbi posted after news of his death:
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