Afghan special forces have killed a high-ranking Al-Qaeda leader, Abu Muhsin al-Masri, who was also wanted by the FBI, Afghanistan’s intelligence service said late Saturday.
Abu Muhsin al-Masri, an Egyptian national believed to be the number-two for the Islamist militant group in the Indian sub-continent, was targeted in central Ghazni province, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security said in a tweet.
Breaking news : as a result of NDS special force unit operation in ghazni province an al-Qaida key member for Indian sub contanint, Abu Muhsen Almisry were killed pic.twitter.com/4fmWzA5T4e
— NDS Afghanistan (@NDSAfghanistan) October 24, 2020
It did not provide further details about the operation or when it was carried out.
Al-Masri, who also goes by the name Husam Abd-al-Ra’uf, is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list. A US warrant for his arrest was issued in December 2018, after he was charged with providing support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization and plotting to kill US nationals, according to the FBI.
Al-Masri’s death was confirmed by Chris Miller, the head of the US National Counter-Terrorism Center in a statement saying his “removal .. from the battlefield is a major setback to a terrorist organization that is consistently experiencing strategic losses facilitated by the United States and its partners”. Miller further stated, Al Qaeda’s loss of al-Masri “highlights the diminishing effectiveness of the terrorist organization”, reported Al Jazeera.
Al-Masri’s killing comes as peace talks continue in Qatar between the Taliban and the Afghan government in a bid to end the long-running war.
US-Taliban peace agreement
The negotiations were organized after a deal between the United States and the Taliban in February, under which the militants agreed to not allow Afghan soil to be used by foreign extremists. As a part of that deal, US forces will leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing agreement with the Afghan government, reported Al Jazeera.
Zalmay Khalilzad, a US special envoy has stated last week that the Taliban had agreed to reduce the number of casualties in Afghanistan and to “re-set” their commitments under a troop withdrawal deal.
“At present too many Afghans are dying. With the re-set, we expect that number to drop significantly,” Zalmay Khalilzad, who negotiated a February 29 deal with the Taliban to pull out US forces, wrote on Twitter.
1/4 Following several meetings General Miller and I had with the Taliban, we agreed to re-set actions by strictly adhering to implementation of all elements of the U.S.-Taliban Agreement and all commitments made.
— U.S. Special Representative Thomas West (@US4AfghanPeace) October 15, 2020
Khalilzad said that he and General Austin Miller, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, met several times with the Taliban to discuss “strictly adhering” to the terms of the agreement.
“This means reduced numbers of operations,” Khalilzad said. “Attacks have been on the rise in recent weeks — threatening the peace process and alarming the Afghan people and their regional and international supporters.”
The Taliban confirmed that their chief negotiator Abdul Hakim met with Khalilzad and Miller over the past few days. Both sides stressed the importance of the US-Taliban agreement and discussed ways to ensure its “full implementation,” the group’s Doha spokesman Mohammad Naseem Wardak tweeted.
The Taliban did not promise to end violence against the internationally recognized government in Kabul but said they would discuss a “permanent and comprehensive ceasefire” in peace talks. Those talks began last month in Doha although there has been little apparent progress, with disputes even on the nature of how to negotiate.
The Taliban government’s sheltering of Al-Qaeda was the original reason for the US invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
AFP with additional information from Global Village Space.