The National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s intelligence service, said that it killed a senior al Qaeda commander and seven associates during a raid in the eastern province of Paktika. The raid took place in the same district where 15 Pakistani Taliban fighters were reported killed last week.
The NDS identified the al Qaeda commander as Khuram, who also uses the aliases Qasim, Junaid, Hassan, and Khadma, in an official statement that was released on its Facebook page. The identities of those killed alongside Khuram has not been disclosed. Al Qaeda has not released a martyrdom statement for Khuram or other senior leaders.
The NDS also seized laptops, a hard drive, cell phones, weapons, ammunition, bombs, and other equipment during the raid.
The operation that killed Khuram took place in the Mokhtar Mina area of the Gomal district in Paktika. The NDS did not state when the raid took place. Additionally, the NDS said that NATO forces in Afghanistan played a role in the attack.
Paktika’s Gomal district appears to be a hotbed for foreign jihadist fighters operating in Afghanistan. On Sept. 9, 15 fighters from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s Gandapur Group were reported to have been killed in a US airstrike in the district.
The US has killed senior al Qaeda leaders as well as military commanders in several airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan since the end of 2013. One of the senior leaders was killed in Paktika.
In December 2013, the US killed two al Qaeda military commanders, three members of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and two members of the Afghan Taliban in an airstrike in Nangarhar. The al Qaeda operatives were commanders in the Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda’s paramilitary unit that fields forces in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and also embeds military trainers within Taliban units in both countries. These trainers provide instruction for battling security forces in local insurgencies, as well as knowledge, expertise, funding, and resources to conduct local and international attacks. [For more information on this unit, see LWJ report, Al Qaeda’s paramilitary ‘Shadow Army,’ from February 2009.]
In October 2014, the US killed al Qaeda leader Abu Bara al Kuwaiti in an airstrike in Nangarhar. He was at the home of Abdul Samad Khanjari, an al Qaeda military commander who doubled as the Taliban’s shadow governor for the Achin district in Nangarhar. Kuwaiti was likely a member of al Qaeda’s General Command.
At the end of July 2015, the US killed Abu Khalil al Sudani, a senior al Qaeda leader who took direction from Ayman al Zawahiri, in an airstrike in the Bermal district in Paktika province. Sudani had a hand in al Qaeda’s external operations network, which plots attacks against the US and the West.
Al Qaeda has maintained a significant presence in Afghanistan, despite Obama administration claims to the contrary, and even began moving senior leaders and operatives into the country after Osama bin Laden directed them to do so in order to mitigate the impact of the US drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
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