Al Qaeda leader reported killed in Tunisia

A senior leader within al Qaeda’s Uqba bin Nafi Battalion (KUBN) was reportedly killed in a military operation earlier today, according to Tunisia’s Ministry of Interior.

Murad al Shayeb was purportedly killed by Tunisian troops today in Kasserine governorate near the borders with Algeria. Tunisia states the military action today was part of a larger ongoing operation in the region.

The Tunisian government states that Shayeb was responsible for a litany of attacks since 2013, including an assault on a former interior minister in 2014 and various ambushes in the Chaambi, Ouargha, Mghila, and Sammama mountains.

A photo claiming to show Shayeb’s dead body was also released by Tunisia’s national guard. However, his death has not yet been confirmed by KUBN. He was also reported killed during an operation in 2017, casting doubt on the veracity of Tunisia’s statements.

Shayeb, an Algerian national, is believed to be one of the main leaders of KUBN and leads the group’s overall operations in the Chaambi Mountain region. Last month, KUBN’s emir for the Kef region was also reportedly killed in a military operation.

Murad is reportedly the brother of KUBN’s first emir, Khaled al Shayeb (also known as Luqman Abu Sakhr). Khaled was killed by Tunisian security forces in early 2015 in an operation in Tunisia’s Gafsa governorate.

Murad’s death, if confirmed, would represent another major blow to al Qaeda’s branch in Tunisia.

Following several setbacks in recent years, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, KUBN’s parent organization, tried to restructure its Tunisian wing by reorganizing the unit.

However, the two jihadists tasked with this operation were also killed by the Tunisian military early last year.

Despite the loss of several leaders and continued military operations against it, KUBN still maintains the capabilities to conduct sporadic offensives.

In April, it reported two operations against Tunisian security forces, so far its only claimed attacks in the country this year.

Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD's Long War Journal.

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