The US is reported to have killed a senior al Qaeda leader in an airstrike in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar near the border with Pakistan’s tribal agency of Khyber. Despite US military officials claims to the contrary, recent raids and airstrikes against al Qaeda show that the network is not limited to operating in the northeastern Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan.
The National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence service, reported that senior al Qaeda leader Abu Bara al Kuwaiti was killed in a US airstrike in Lal Mandi in the Nazyan district in Nangarhar, which is adjacent to the border with the Tirah Valley in Pakistan’s tribal agency of Khyber, Pajhwok Afghan News reported.
The al Qaeda leader was at the home of Abdul Samad Khanjari, who is described as an al Qaeda military “commander,” when he was killed, TOLONews reported. NDS officers raided Khanjari’s home and seized weapons, a laptop, and documents.
Khanjari is also said to double as the Taliban’s shadow governor for the Achin district in Nangarhar, according to Afghan Islamic Press. This is not uncommon, as members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are known to double as shadow governors in northern Afghan provinces. Additionally, al Qaeda leaders are also known to serve as Taliban commanders; the US military has described these commanders as “dual-hatted” leaders.
Al Qaeda has not confirmed the death of Abu Bara, nor have online jihadists known to be plugged into the network announced his martyrdom.
The NDS said that Abu Bara “had close relations with the family of Ayman al Zawahiri, the al Qaeda leader.”
Abu Bara was likely a member of al Qaeda’s General Command. He was known to be a “student” and “comrade” of Atiyah Abd al Rahman, al Qaeda’s former general manager who was also known as Atiyah Allah and who was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan in August 2011. Abu Bara wrote Atiyah’s eulogy, which was published in Vanguards of Khorasan, al Qaeda’s official magazine.
In the eulogy, Abu Bara notes several times that he had access to Atiyah’s documents and was trained by the former al Qaeda general manager.
“I was able to know things from his numerous letters in which he advises [jihadists] to be patient, seek the refuge of Almighty God in harsh times, and trust God’s promise of victory even in these ruthless times we are living,” Abu Bara said in the lengthy eulogy for his former boss.
“He used to treat me like he used to treat his son,” Abu Bara continued. “He was like a carrying father and an older brother by guiding me in all issues and teaching and advising me whenever it is possible. I learned from him several things, which he stressed on teaching me. My brother Abu al Hasan al Wa’ili, may God protect him, saw this. He taught me things in religion and life in general.”
Additionally, Abu Bara said that Atiyah informed him that Abu Dujanah al Khurasani executed the Dec. 30, 2009, suicide attack suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost province. Seven CIA officers and guards were killed in the attack.
“He [Atiyah] told me all the details regarding this operation and the plan,” Abu Bara said.
The death of Abu Bara, if confirmed, is the second major blow against the terrorist network in Afghanistan and Pakistan this week. On Oct. 14, the NDS captured Anis Haqqani, the son of the Haqqani Network”s leader and the brother of its operational leader, and Hafiz Rashid, the network’s military commander for southeastern Afghanistan, during a special operations raid in Khost province, Afghanistan. [See Threat Matrix report, Afghan intel agency captures two senior Haqqani Network leaders.]