Jihadists, including at least one senior al Qaeda member, are claiming that the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) was killed in a raid by Pakistani intelligence in Karachi.
KSM’s nephew has been identified by these online sources as Idris al Balushi (or al Baluchi), indicating his familial ties to Baluchistan. KSM, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, has known family roots in Baluchistan, a large Pakistani province that borders both Afghanistan and Iran.
The Long War Journal could not independently verify Balushi’s death, or the purported details of the raid in which he was killed. As of this writing, neither Pakistani nor US officials have publicly commented on Balushi’s status. In addition, al Qaeda has not issued a formal martyrdom statement for him. Determining whether an al Qaeda operative is dead or alive is often a murky business.
In a series of four tweets on August 24, a Twitter feed attributed to an al Qaeda leader known as Sanafi al Nasr described Balushi as being a “clever” man who quietly did his job. The feed’s owner, presumably Nasr, posted a picture claiming to show Balushi and another al Qaeda member after their deaths. The photo can be seen on the right.
Nasr credited Balushi with assisting many jihadists through his work combating the American drone campaign. He did not offer any details explaining how Balushi supposedly did this.
Balushi survived two drone strikes in the past, but suffered severe wounds, according to Nasr. Finally, Pakistani intelligence caught up with Balushi, allowing him to achieve his “martyrdom” during a counterterrorism raid in Karachi. It is not clear when this raid occurred.
In his tweets, Nasr asked Allah to accept Balushi, who was among the “best of the mujahideen in Khorasan,” as one of his “martyrs.”
Other al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Twitter feeds have reported the news of Balushi’s demise as well. One of them included versions of the same pictures posted by Nasr, but added a picture allegedly showing Sajjad Ali, who is described as the “assistant director” of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Karachi. According to the jihadists, Balushi and his al Qaeda comrade killed Ali during the counterterrorism raid.
As The Long War Journal has previously reported, Sanafi al Nasr rose through al Qaeda’s ranks to become a senior planner in the organization. He was located in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region for years, and also briefly served as the head of al Qaeda’s network inside Iran. But he relocated to Syria in 2013. According to the US Treasury Department, Nasr then became one of the “top strategists” in Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria.
Nasr has a mixed track record when it comes to reporting on the deaths of his fellow al Qaeda operatives.
In April 2013, he correctly reported that Abu Ubaydah Abdullah al Adam, who served as al Qaeda’s intelligence chief, was killed in a drone strike. And in July 2014, he tweeted that six of his “dearest comrades” were killed in an airstrike in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Nasr identified three of them as Taj al Makki, Abu Abdurahman al Kuwaiti, and Fayez Awda al Khalidi. Little is known about the six men, but Nasr’s tweets appear to be credible.
However, in September 2014, Nasr claimed that Muhsin al Fadhli, a leader in al Qaeda’s so-called “Khorasan Group,” had been killed in US airstrikes. That wasn’t true, as the US has continued to target Fadhli. The Defense Department says that Fadhli was subsequently killed on July 8, meaning that he survived the bombings in September. (Nasr is also a member of the “Khorasan Group.”)
In addition, some of Nasr’s own al Qaeda colleagues acted as if Nasr himself had been killed during a battle with Bashar al Assad’s forces in Latakia, Syria in early 2014. In reality, Nasr was seriously wounded and the social media campaign surrounding his “death” was likely a ruse intended to allow him time to recuperate.
Idris al Balushi’s purported role as an al Qaeda member is unsurprising, given that other members of KSM’s family were master terrorists. Two of KSM’s nephews, Ammar al Baluchi and Ramzi Yousef, were both involved in plots against the US.
Ammar al Baluchi helped his uncle plan the 9/11 attacks, providing financial and other assistance to the hijackers. He also continued to plot against US interests months after 9/11, according to leaked and declassified documents prepared by US intelligence officials. Like KSM, Ammar al Baluchi is currently detained at Guantanamo.
Ramzi Yousef masterminded the 1993 attempt to bring down the World Trade Center. He went on to help plan the so-called Bojinka operation, which targeted airliners. Yousef was arrested, however, and convicted on terrorism charges. He has been imprisoned in the US since the mid-1990s.
And now, if the reporting by Sanafi al Nasr and other al Qaeda-linked social media users is accurate, then another one of KSM’s nephews has been taken out of the terror game.