Afghan forces claim senior al Qaeda lieutenant killed in Ghazni

Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) claims that Husam Abd-al-Ra’uf, a senior al Qaeda leader with a thick jihadist dossier, was killed as a result of a recent operation in the Andar district of Ghazni province.

FDD’s Long War Journal has not independently confirmed the report and the NDS provided conflicting details throughout the day. The NDS first claimed that Abd-al-Ra’uf was arrested, then that he succumbed to his injuries, and finally that he had been killed during the raid.

If confirmed, Abd-al-Ra’uf’s demise would be significant. A veteran Egyptian jihadist, Abd-al-Ra’uf (also known as Abu Muhsin al-Masri) was a senior member of al Qaeda’s management and one of the few figures to publicly comment on behalf of As Sahab, the group’s central media organ.

A federal arrest warrant for Abd-al-Ra’uf was issued in the Southern District of New York in December 2018, after he was charged with various crimes. He was also placed on the FBI’s list of Most Wanted terrorists.

An NDS-affiliated Twitter feed describes Abd-al-Ra’uf as a “key member” of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which may be true, but he almost certainly held a more senior role within al Qaeda’s global framework as well. He is thought to have served at the top of As Sahab’s hierarchy, and was possibly the propaganda shop’s chief at the time of the reported raid.

Citing a “very senior Afghan official,” Bilal Sarwary quickly reported on the operation, saying that Abd-al-Ra’uf was a “senior” member of al Qaeda’s “central” shura (or advisory) council and the “head of its media operations,” which is consistent with other reporting.

Ghazni is a known hub of al Qaeda activity, with multiple sources and reports confirming the group’s presence in the province for years. Therefore, while Abd-al-Ra’uf’s death must be confirmed, it would not be surprising if the Egyptian met his end in the province.

Al Qaeda biography

Al Qaeda re-introduced Abd-al-Ra’uf to its audience in a 2013 video, which included a brief biography for the Egyptian. That biography was originally translated by SITE Intelligence Group. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, New al Qaeda video features magazine editor, discussion of Arab Spring.]

Al Qaeda said at the time that Abd-al-Ra’uf relocated to Pakistan in 1989, where he joined Maktab al Khidamat (MAK), which was established by Abdullah Azzam. That same year, Azzam was killed in a mysterious assassination.

Abd-al-Ra’uf worked for the group until the 1990s, serving as a treasurer and in administrative roles, as well as an editor for Jihad Magazine. Al Qaeda explained that Abd-al-Ra’uf moved to Kabul in 1995, where he ran charitable projects and an orphanage until the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It is not clear what he did in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

In 2005, Abd-al-Ra’uf was named the editor of the Vanguards of Khorasan Magazine, which was published online for years before evolving into other magazines. He then rose through the ranks of As Sahab, which produces videos, speeches and statements on behalf of al Qaeda’s senior leadership.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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