Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Imam Mamoun Darkazanli

I'm all about the 4th and 5th Amendments (privacy and due process), but the fact that the Imam (religious leader) of the al Quds Mosque prior to 9/11 has escaped prosecution is absolutely insane. From the country that started two world wars, comes the denial of extradition to Spain for facilitation of the 3/11 Madrid attacks??? Now we learn that Siddiqui (recently captured in Afghanistan and plotter of the 2010Europe attacks) and Darkazanli may have had a strong relationship...

From the Longwar Journal (September 30, 2010):

One of the more significant connections between Siddiqui and the 9/11 plotters may be the imam who ran the Al Quds-Taiba mosque: Mamoun Darkazanli.

Western intelligence agencies have long known that Darkazanali is an al Qaeda operative.

The imam has repeatedly avoided being brought to justice, however.

Darkazanli first popped up on the CIA’s radar in 1993 when a man carrying false passports and counterfeit money was arrested in Africa and Darkazanli’s phone number was found in his possession. Authorities failed to assemble a case against Darkazanli at the time. That same year, ironically, he purchased a ship named “Jennifer” for Osama bin Laden.

Darkazanli garnered the FBI’s attention in 1998 after al Qaeda’s bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The FBI found Darkazanli’s contact information in the address book of Wadi el Hage, Osama bin Laden’s personal secretary. The bureau also learned that Darkazanli had power of attorney over a bank account owned by Abu Hajer al Iraqi, who is one of al Qaeda’s founding members and was a senior member of bin Laden’s organization at the time. Abu Hajer al Iraqi (whose real name is Mamdouh Mahmud Salim) was arrested in Germany and extradited to the US for his involvement in the embassy bombings.

Darkazanli’s ties were scrutinized again in March 1999 when US officials learned he was in contact with a student named “Marwan.” The student turned out to be Marwan al-Shehhi, one of the 9/11 hijackers.

Indeed, there is considerable evidence that Darkazanli and another Syrian named Mohammed Zammar were heavily involved with al Qaeda’s Hamburg cell. The pair, who are veterans of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, likely played an important role in indoctrinating and financing the 9/11 hijackers.

Prior to 9/11, American authorities pressured the Germans to clamp down on Darkazanli. But German laws did not prohibit his involvement with a foreign terrorist organization at the time. After 9/11, the US and UN quickly added Darkazanli and his import-export business to the list of al Qaeda-affiliated entities.

Spanish officials sought Darkazanli’s extradition in 2004 and 2005. They accuse Darkazanli of being involved with the al Qaeda cell in Madrid that was responsible for the March 11, 2004, train bombings. Darkazanli is a longtime compatriot of Imad Yarkas, who was one of Osama bin Laden’s chief points of contact in Europe prior to 9/11 and ran the Madrid cell.

Darkazanli’s extradition to Spain was blocked by a German court, however. The Germans found that the EU arrest warrant issued by Spain violated Germany’s constitution. Darkazanli was allowed to go free – avoiding justice once again.

All of this raises the possibility that Darkazanli was involved in the most recent terror plot against Europe. It would not be surprising to learn that authorities are investigating any ties between Darkazanli and Siddiqui.

Darkazanli’s mosque has been the epicenter for terrorist plotting before, including the most devastating terrorist attack in history.


The Infamous Hamburg Mosque

OK, with concrete proof that the 9/11 attacks were financed and managed through the now infamous al Quds (now Taiba) Mosque, why the FUCK was it not closed earlier???

Always willing to give the benefit of the doubt, I suppose it was kept open so that German intelligence could monitor the comings and goings of members, which is why the recent Mumbai-style Europe plot was uncovered. Maybe. Or it was sheer dumb luck.

From the Longwar Journal (September 30, 2010):

The recently uncovered terror plot against European cities, which was to involve attacks similar to the November 2008 attack in Mumbai, is tied to the same Hamburg mosque that was attended by some of the 9/11 hijackers.

The purported plot was discovered during the interrogation of a German citizen named Ahmed Siddiqui, who attended the Taiba mosque in Hamburg. The Taiba mosque gained infamy under its former name -- Al Quds. Al Qaeda’s Hamburg cell for the 9/11 operation frequented the Al Quds mosque, where they were indoctrinated in the ways of jihad.

Siddiqui’s ties to Taiba were previously reported by Der Spiegel. In a Sept. 6 piece titled, “Hamburg Islamist Speaks of Threat of Attacks in Germany,” Der Spiegel reported that American forces had detained a German of Afghan descent named “Ahmad S.” in Kabul.

During interrogations at the US base in Bagram, Ahmad S. spoke “extensively about attack scenarios in Germany and neighboring European countries.” His full name was not known at the time, but "Ahmad S." is Ahmed Siddiqui.

Der Spiegel reported that Siddiqui was among a “total of around a dozen” terror suspects who disappeared from the Hamburg mosque during a “short period of time in 2009.” The dozen suspects, including Siddiqui, “moved in circles close to Hamburg's Taiba mosque” and are suspected of training in terrorist camps along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Siddiqui’s arrest in July 2010 may explain why the Taiba mosque was closed just weeks later in early August 2010. German authorities allowed the mosque to remain open for years, despite its numerous ties to terrorism and extremism. Then, suddenly, authorities raided and closed the mosque.

Siddiqui has ties to al Qaeda’s Hamburg cell. According to Der Spiegel, Siddiqui regularly drove Mounir el Motassadeq’s father to the jail where Mounir is imprisoned for visits. Mounir is serving a 15-year sentence in a German prison for his involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Der Spiegel noted that Siddiqui “also went on vacation with Motassadeq's family in Morocco” in 2002 and “worked at the Hamburg airport,” just as Mounir Motassadeq did.


Europe Plot/Drone Strikes Connection

More on the connection between the recent spate of drone strikes in North Waziristan and the plot to bomb public targets in Europe. Just a few months ago, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) seemed to be a fringe al Qaeda group. Conventional wisdom was that IMU was not welcome in most Taliban-held areas of Pakistan, due to their "extreme" global jihad views. The fact that they now appear relatively welcome in North Waziristan could mean a few things:

1) The IMU is closely allied with al Qaeda, and
2) al Qaeda has stepped up its influence with the Taliban (eg, Haqqani Network), and
3) The Taliban has embraced the global jihad view


1 & 2 above, plus
4) The Taliban does not support IMU-like elements, but al Qaeda's growing power has suppressed the Taliban, and
5) al Qaeda's global influence is NOT as weak as the Obama administration claims

Either scenario is NOT good.

From the Longwar Journal (September 30, 2010):

Eight Germans and two Britons were killed in the same airstrike that killed an Islamic Jihad Group commander who trained Europeans to carry out attacks in England, France, and Germany.

The eight Germans and two Britons, who were involved in the recently exposed plot to conduct Mumbai-like attacks in Europe, are said to have been killed in one of the two Sept. 8 airstrikes in the Datta Khel area in North Waziristan, a known safe haven and command and control center for al Qaeda and allied terror groups.

The 10 Europeans are thought to have been killed in the same strike that killed Qureshi, a commander in the Islamic Jihad Group (IJG), a splinter faction of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Qureshi is believed to have been helping to train and facilitate the European plot, which is said to involve Mumbai-like terror assaults of armed suicide bombers in major European cities, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

Qureshi was described by AKI as a commander who "used to receive foreigners especially the Germans in North Waziristan and then train them and resend them to their country of origins."

The Islamic Jihad Group is based out of the Mir Ali region and maintains close ties with al Qaeda leader Abu Kasha al Iraqi, and with North Waziristan Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar, who controls the Datta Khel region. The IJG is known to operate a 'German Taliban village' in Waziristan. The IJG is a Specially Designated Global Terrorist organization. Both the IJG and IMU are al Qaeda affiliates that operate in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia.

A Pakistani intelligence official said that the 10 Europeans killed in the Sept. 8 strikes were communicating with their support cells in Germany and London, and have been tracked for months.

"They have been making calls to Germany and London," the official told The Associated Press. "They have been talking about and looking for facilitators and logistics they need there to carry out terror strikes."

One of the Britons was identified as Abdul Jabbar, who originated from the district of Jhelum in Pakistan's Punjab province. Multiple Pakistani terror groups, including Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Laskar-e-Jhangvi, are active in Punjab. These groups receive the support of Pakistan's military and intelligence establishments.

Rashid Rauf, the elusive Jaish-e-Mohammed and al Qaeda operative, may be involved in the plot in Britain, a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. Rauf and senior al Qaeda leader Matiur Rehman, who is said to hold the "rolodex" of jihadists who have passed through terror camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan, were the architects of the 2006 London airline plot. Rauf escaped Pakistani custody under very suspicious circumstances and was thought to have been killed in a Predator strike in 2008, but his death was never confirmed. US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal that they believe Rauf is alive, and Rauf's family has denied he is dead.

Another link to the Uzbek terror groups' involvement in the European terror plot is the arrest of Ahmed Sidiqui, a German from Hamburg. Sidiqui, a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, was captured in the Afghan north in July and has since provided information on the terror plot. Sidiqui also said that the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, which is based in North Waziristan and operates in eastern and northern Afghanistan, was involved in the European terror plot.

Sidiqui had attended the Taiba mosque in Hamburg, which was home to several of the 9/11 plotters under its previous name -- Al Quds. German authorities closed the Taiba mosque on Aug. 12.

Coalition Special Operations Forces dramatically stepped up operations against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan immediately after Sidiqui's capture in July. Multiple IMU commanders have been killed or captured in the northern Afghan provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan, and Takhar since July. Many of these commanders had integrated their operations with the Taliban in northern Afghanistan, and some held senior positions in the Taliban’s shadow government.


The White Man's al Qaeda???

So German Caucasians are the latest members of al Qaeda's quest for global jihad. After uncovering the link between 9/11 and Hamburg, Germany, I guess I'm not too surprised.

From the Telegraph (September 25, 2010):

The village, in Taliban-controlled Waziristan, is run by the notorious al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which plots raids on Nato forces in Afghanistan.

A recruitment video presents life in the village as a desirable lifestyle choice with schools, hospitals, pharmacies and day care centres, all at a safe distance from the front.

In the video, the presenter, "Abu Adam", the public face of the group in Germany, points his finger and asks: "Doesn't it appeal to you? We warmly invite you to join us!"

According to German foreign ministry officials a growing number of German families, many of North African descent, have taken up the offer and travelled to Waziristan where supporters say converts make up some of the insurgents' most dedicated fighters.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which has a foothold in several German cities, has capitalised on growing concern over the rising profile of German forces in Afghanistan. Their role has become increasingly controversial in Germany in recent weeks after dozens of civilians were killed in an air strike ordered by German officers.

Last night a foreign ministry spokesman told The Daily Telegraph they were now negotiating with Pakistani authorities for the release of six Germans, including "Adrian M", a white Muslim convert, his Eritrean wife and their four year old daughter, who were arrested as they were making their way to the "German village". They are particularly concerned about the welfare of the child.

They are being held in custody in Peshawar after their arrest in May shortly when they crossed the border from Iran. They are understood to have left Germany in March this year.

The spokesman said negotiations were "under way" with Pakistani authorities "concerning a group of German citizens" and that it had been aware that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan had been recruiting in Germany "since the beginning of the year".

Their recruitment drive has been led by "Abu Adam", a 24-year-old German believed to be of Turkish or North African descent who was raised with fellow Jihadi, Abu Ibrahim, in the smart Bonn suburb of Kessenich.

Adam, whose real name is Mounir Chouka, received weapons training from the German army as part of his national service, and later spent three years training at the Federal Office of Statistics where colleagues described him as a "nice boy".

He left in 2007, telling colleagues he was joining a trading firm in Saudi Arabia, but is believed to have joined a terrorist training camp in Yemen.

In another recruitment video released earlier this year he urged supporters to: "Die the death of honour."

Khalid Khawaja, a former Pakistan intelligence officer, who describes himself as a friend of Osama bin Laden, said he was aware of a German contingent and that there were a number of Swedish converts too who had arrived in Pakistan "for Jihad".

"The Europeans are there [in Waziristan]. The most dedicated people there are from Europe. They will do anything for Islam. They are not there because their fathers are Muslim, but by choice," he said.


Surge in Drone Attacks Linked to Europe Plot

With the HUGE surge in drone strikes in North Waziristan in September, something had to be going on. It looks like the uptick in strikes was a reaction to intelligence learning of the plot to attack Europe and to disrupt it.

From the Longwar Journal (September 29, 2010):

Within the past 24 hours, the existence of an ongoing multi-pronged international terror plot in Europe modeled after the 2008 Mumbai attacks has been exposed. The plan is said to involve simultaneous attacks, consisting of commando-style raids and hostage-taking, on major targets in England, France, and Germany.

The US Predator campaign in Pakistan has been ramped up to counter this threat, and several terrorist leaders associated with the plot are thought to have been killed in these strikes over the past month. Also, US special operations forces have targeted al Qaeda-linked terror groups in northern Afghanistan who have been linked to the plot.

The revelation of this latest terror plot shakes an already edgy Europe, which has recently seen the Eiffel Tower evacuated twice in the past two weeks due to anonymous bomb threats, the arrest in Norway of several operatives planning another attack on the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and specific threats to the French public transportation systems. At present, the terror alert level in France is high, as it is in England.

Western security officials may have made several arrests in an attempt to disrupt the plot, which apparently was not yet in the ‘imminent’ stage. These arrests follow a series of terror-related incidents in recent weeks linking individuals in Europe with al Qaeda and some of its affiliates.

The attack planning has been under the scrutiny of Western intelligence agencies for some time, and the recent flurry of drone strikes managed to interrupt the planning for the attack, according to the BBC. The dramatic increase in strikes has resulted from briefings with the Obama administration about the terror plot. In addition, the BBC observes, Western intelligence agencies have been somewhat dismayed by the leaks, as they have compromised an ongoing investigation.

According to Sky News, the plan had been hatched by Pakistan-based militants and was “in an ‘advanced but not imminent stage’” and its planners “had been tracked by spy agencies ‘for some time’.” The report in The Telegraph states that the plan “was foiled after Western intelligence agencies, including MI6 and GCHQ, uncovered the plans by senior al Qaeda operatives in the lawless tribal areas.”

The Telegraph goes on to note that a German resident who was detained by the US military in Afghanistan in July has revealed considerable information related to attacks being planned on German and other European targets. He was “identified in Germany as ‘Ahmad S’, aged 36, [and] was said to be a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which is closely associated with al-Qaeda.” The New York Times notes that he has been identified in German media reports as Ahmed Sidiqui, of Hamburg. According to the Times, Sidiqi told US interrogators that some of the terrorist operatives may already be in Europe, and that the Haqqani Network in Pakistan is involved in the plot or plots.

Dramatic increase in drone strikes in September may be linked to European terror plans

Coalition Special Operations Forces have dramatically stepped up operations against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan immediately after Sidiqui's capture in July. Multiple IMU commanders have been killed or captured in the northern Afghan provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan, and Takhar since July. Many of these commanders had integrated their operations with the Taliban in northern Afghanistan, and some held senior positions in the Taliban’s shadow government.

In conjunction with the operations against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in the Afghan north, the US ramped up its Predator campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The unprecedented rain of Predator strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas this month has killed more than 100 militants, from several terror affiliates, including al Qaeda, the Islamic Jihad Group, and the Haqqani Network. Three top al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad Group commanders who may be linked to the plot have been reported killed in the past month.

The most significant al Qaeda leader reported to have been killed is Sheik Abu el Fatah al Masri, al Qaeda’s chief of operations for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Fateh is thought to have been killed in a drone strike on Sept. 25 in North Waziristan. Since the news of the European terror plot surfaced, reports have suggested that Fateh’s death has severely disrupted the plot. Other reports also suggest, however, that the plot itself, though unraveling, may not yet be completely interrupted.

Another significant terror leader linked to the plot who is thought to have been killed is Qureshi, an Uzbek commander from the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Jihad Group, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. Qureshi was targeted in a drone strike in North Waziristan on Sept. 8. According to AKI, Qureshi "used to receive foreigners especially the Germans in North Waziristan and then train them and resend them to their country of origins." The Islamic Jihad Group is a splinter group of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and has numerous German and Turkish members.

Also thought killed in the strike that killed Qureshi are two Britons and eight Germans, The Telegraph reported. One of the Britons, who was originally from Pakistan, was identified as Abdul Jabbar of the district of Jhelum in Punjab province.

Also, unconfirmed reports indicate that Bekkay Harrach, a German national who is based along the Afghan-Pakistani border, may have been killed in the Aug. 23 Predator strike in Danda Darpa Khel, the hub for the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network in North Waziristan. Harrach is a German national who is a senior member of al Qaeda's external operations branch.

Uncertainties remain as to scope of plot and terror groups' involvement

The latest reports on the plot appear to downplay its significance as an imminent threat, and to stress the uncertainties at the moment. The Associated Press reports that "U.S. intelligence had heard of the European plot about a month ago and was monitoring the people involved" and states that the US had increased the number of drone strikes in Pakistan in an effort to disrupt the plot. Reflecting the present lack of any clear answers on the issue, however, the AP report goes on to quote an anonymous British official who cautioned that although the drone strikes were believed to have interrupted the planning for the European attacks, "the operation was still considered active."

Looking at the scope of the interrupted plot to attack several European countries simultaneously, it is apparent that for a plan of this size to succeed, operatives with diverse backgrounds would be most useful, in order for them to blend in effectively with the local populations. Al Qaeda planners might draw from the group’s various affiliates for this sort of extensive operation: they would likely use Pakistanis for the planned attacks in London, North Africans from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb for the attacks in France, and Germans from the IMU and IJG for the German attacks, for example.

Arrests have been recently made in Europe that may have some connection with this still-unraveling plot.

Yesterday, a US citizen of Algerian origins was arrested in Spain; he is reported to have links with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The arrest was made for his allegedly sending large amounts of money to al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb, al Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa. AQIM has an extensive network in France and southern Europe.

In July, three men were arrested in Norway for plotting terror attacks in Europe, and more recently, the Norwegian authorities have revealed that one of the three Norwegian suspects, an Iraqi Kurd named Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak Bujak, has confessed to plotting to attack the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which had published cartoons of the prophet Mohammed several years ago. The other two suspects are an Uzbek national named David Jakobsen, and a Norwegian citizen of Uighur origins named Mikael Davud, who arrived in Norway in 1999 and apparently was the main planner for the attack. MSNBC notes that Davud had gone to Waziristan at approximately the same time as New York subway plotter Najibullah Zazi, though, according to US officials, they did not meet or train together there.

In Germany, officials remain concerned about possible future terror attacks, in light of information provided by a Sidiqui, the German national of Afghan descent who was arrested by US forces in Afghanistan in July and has been held in Baghram since that time. According to the head of the German federal police, there is “concrete evidence that 70 Islamists from Germany had undergone paramilitary training in terror camps.“ The German police estimate that over 400 Islamists are currently in Germany, of which perhaps 131 could be potential "offenders.”

As the investigation in this unraveling terror plot continues, it has become apparent that much of the planning seems to have been on the radar of the various Western intelligence agencies for weeks and even months. The recent leaks may have forced Western intelligence services and law enforcement agencies to act more quickly than they might otherwise have done to arrest planners and operatives, thus potentially leaving other suspects at large, and other terror plans possibly intact.


Cross Border Strikes Kill More Than 100

Recently, ISAF Apache helicopters took it to militants belonging to the Haqqani Network. Killing more than 100. Across the border. Several times. In Pakistan.

Although this sounds like a case of “hot pursuit”, this is a BIG deal. Manned incursions into Pakistan are rare (although reliable sources indicate that Special Operation troops routinely operate in Pakistan). Predictably, the Paks were rather upset, publicly and politically.

From the Longwar Journal (September 27, 2010):

The International Security Assistance Force confirmed that its helicopters clashed with the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network near the Pakistani border, but would not confirm the aircraft crossed into Pakistan to conduct attacks.

Ten Haqqani Network fighters fighters were killed during a clash this morning along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a US military official told The Long War Journal, but current reports indicate the helicopters did cross into Pakistan to engage Taliban fighters. The military official said that ISAF is still gathering information on the clash.

The fighting took place near Combat Outpost Narizah, an Afghan base just eight miles from the Pakistani border in Khost province, the official said. Khost is a stronghold of the Haqqani Network, an Afghan Taliban subgroup based in North Waziristan, Pakistan.

The statement played down reports from earlier today that indicated US helicopters killed five insurgents as they fled into Pakistan's tribal agency of Kurram, which borders Khost.

In another report, a Pakistani security official claimed that US helicopters crossed the border and struck a local checkpoint manned by members of "noble tribal families."

Combat Outpost Narizah was the scene of two major clashes over the weekend that resulted in US helicopters pursuing Haqqani Network fighters into Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. Initial reports indicated that more than 30 Haqqani Network fighters were killed in the two cross-border engagements, but later reports state than between 50 to 60 may have been killed.

ISAF has maintained that it legitimately attacked Taliban forces as part of an existing policy of hot pursuit of fighters.

US forces pursued the Taliban into Pakistan "after following the proper rules of engagement under inherent right of self defense," Master Sergeant Matthew Summers, an ISAF spokesman, told The Long War Journal on Sept. 26.

But a spokesman at Pakistan's Foreign Office rejected reports that such an agreement between ISAF and Pakistan exists, and said the incursions are a violation ISAF's mandate.

“These incidents are a clear violation and breach of the UN mandate under which ISAF operates,” spokesman Abdul Basit said in a statement released by the Foreign Office, according to AFP.

“There are no agreed 'hot pursuit' rules," Basit continued. "Any impression to the contrary is not factually correct. Such violations are unacceptable. In the absence of immediate corrective measures, Pakistan will be constrained to consider response options."

Background on agreement on cross-border activities between ISAF and Pakistan
Although the Pakistani Foreign Office denied the existence of any agreement that permits ISAF forces to enter Pakistan while in hot pursuit of Taliban fighters, the details of such an agreement have been known for years. In August 2007, The Associated Press released the text of the agreement.

The agreement between ISAF and Pakistan stipulated the following: US forces must be engaged with the Taliban or al Qaeda as they cross into Pakistan and US forces should not penetrate more than six miles into Pakistani territory. Also, US forces may enter Pakistan if they have identified the location of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahri, or Mullah Omar.

The US has pursued Taliban fighters across the border multiple times. Two of the most high-profile incidents occurred in 2008. The first took place in June 2008, when US troops pursued a Taliban force from Kunar into Pakistan's tribal agency of Mohmand, and killed 11 fighters. The Pakistani government claimed that the US killed Frontier Corps troops, but the US released video of the incident showing the Taliban being targeted as they fled from Kunar into Mohmand. Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps is known to support the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The second incident took place in Khyber in November 2008, when US forces launched rocket attacks and ground strikes into the Tirah Valley, a known haven for al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Lashkar-e-Islam. Seven people were reported killed and three were wounded in the strikes.

The US also launches covert airstrikes using unmanned Predators and Reapers against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan's tribal areas. The Pakistani government officially protests the covert strikes but quietly approves. Three such strikes have been launched inside Pakistan over the past three days; all have taken place in North Waziristan.


Number 3 al Qaeda Killed in Drone Strike!!!

Having the number 3 position in al Qaeda is a dangerous job. And so is living near Datta Khel.

From the Longwar Journal (September 28, 2010):

Unconfirmed reports from Pakistan indicate the US has killed al Qaeda's newly appointed leader of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Sheikh Fateh al Masri, the leader of Qaedat al Jihad fi Khorasan, or the base of the jihad in the Khorasan, was killed in a recent Predator strike, Pakistani intelligence officials told AFP.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said they were aware of the reports and were investigating. One US official confirmed that Fateh was targeted in the spate of recent strikes but cautioned that given the total control that the Taliban and al Qaeda have in North Waziristan, it is difficult to be certain Fateh was killed.

Al Qaeda has not released a martyrdom statement announcing Fateh's death. Such statements are often released on jihadist Internet forums days or weeks after a leader is killed.

Fateh is thought to have been killed in the Sept. 25 strike in Datta Khel in North Waziristan, a known haven for al Qaeda's top leaders. In that attack, US Predators or Reapers fired three missiles at a vehicle, killing four "militants."

Datta Khel is administered by Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the Taliban commander for North Waziristan. Despite the fact that Bahadar and the Haqqani Network shelter al Qaeda and other South and Central Asian terror groups, the Pakistani government and military refuse to take action in North Waziristan. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are viewed as "good Taliban" as they do not attack the Pakistani state.

Fatah replaced Mustafa Abu Yazid, al Qaeda's former leader in Afghanistan, who was killed in the May 21 Predator airstrike in Datta Khel in North Waziristan. Yazid served as al Qaeda's chief financier and paymaster. Al Qaeda has not publicly named Yazid's replacement for its top financial official, nor is it likely to do so given the job's importance, intelligence officials said.

Fateh, like Yazid, is an Egyptian who is close to Ayman al Zawahiri. Egyptians hold a significant number of al Qaeda's top leadership positions.

The Khorasan is a region that encompasses large areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Iran. The Khorasan is considered by jihadists to be the place where they will inflict the first defeat against their enemies in the Muslim version of Armageddon. The final battle is to take place in the Levant - Israel, Syria, and Lebanon.

Mentions of the Khorasan have begun to increase in al Qaeda's propaganda since 2007. After al Qaeda's defeat in Iraq, the group began shifting its rhetoric from promoting Iraq as the central front in their jihad and has placed the focus on the Khorasan.


Drone Strike in South Waziristan Kills 4

A drone strike kills four militants belonging to Mullah Nazir.

From Dawn.com (September 28, 2010):

PESHAWAR: A US drone strike killed four militants Tuesday and destroyed a rebel compound in Pakistan's lawless tribal badlands along the Afghan border, local security officials said.

Pakistani officials say unmanned US aircraft have significantly stepped up attacks on Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked operatives in the semi-autonomous region this month, recording at least 21 attacks in September.

Tuesday's strike took place in Zeba village close to the Afghan border and west of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan.

A US drone fired two missiles which hit a militant compound, killing four militants,” a Pakistani security official told AFP on condition of anonymity. Another security official confirmed the attack and the death toll.


3rd Drone Strike in Two Days Kills 4

From Dawn.com (September 27, 2010):

MIRAMSHAH: A US drone strike killed four militants Monday and destroyed a rebel compound in Pakistan's lawless tribal badlands along the Afghan border, local security officials said.

Pakistani officials say unmanned US aircraft have significantly stepped up attacks on Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked operatives in the semi-autonomous region this month, clocking up at least 19 attacks in 24 days.

Monday's strike took place in Khushali Toorikhel village southeast of Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan, the tribal district that has been the focus of the covert drone campaign as a Taliban and Al-Qaeda stronghold.

“We can now confirm that four militants were killed when a US drone fired two missiles on a militant compound,” a senior Pakistani security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Another security official confirmed the attack and the death toll.

“We don't yet know the identities of those killed,” the official said.

Pakistani security officials also said US drones carried out missile strikes in North Waziristan on Saturday and Sunday, killing at least 11 militants.


Twin Drone Strikes in Datta Khel Kills 7

The Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, Pakistan is the territory of Hafiz Gul Bahadur (see my profile for more information).

From GEO Pakistan (September 25, 2010):

MIRANSHAH: A US missile strike targeting a vehicle killed four militants in Pakistan's rugged tribal region, near the Afghan border on Sunday, Geo News reported.

The attack took place in Asar village of Datta Khel town, some 50 kilometres (31 miles) west of Miranshah, the main district of North Waziristan tribal region, also known as a hub for Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants.


MIRANSHAH: A second US missile strike targeting a vehicle killed three rebels Sunday in Pakistan's rugged mountainous tribal belt near the Afghan border, Geo News reported.

The attack took place in Asar village, also the site of an earlier drone strike Sunday, some 50 kilometres (31 miles) west of Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal district.

The US drone fired four missiles, targeting a vehicle which was going to the site of the first attack for rescue work, killing three militants, sources said.


The International Security Assistance Force confirmed that it killed a top al Qaeda leader who was targeted in an airstrike over the weekend. A senior al Qaeda IED facilitator and several al Qaeda operatives were also killed in the Sept. 25 airstrike.

Abdallah Umar al Qurayshi, a senior al Qaeda commander "who coordinated the attacks of a group of Arab fighters in Kunar and Nuristan provinces," was killed after being tracked to "a remote compound in the Korengal Valley" in the district of Pech, ISAF stated in a press release.

"The Al Qaeda facilitators and extremists he works with throughout the Middle East directly threaten the safety and security of Afghan government officials and civilians," ISAF continued. "He routinely facilitates the travel of foreign fighters into the region."

Also killed in the "precision air strike" were an al Qaeda "explosives expert" named Abu Atta al Kuwaiti "and several Arabic foreign fighters." The deaths of Qurayshi, al Kuwati, and other al Qaeda and Taliban leaders occurred while they were in a meeting.

"ISAF is working to confirm the exact identities of other high-level insurgent commanders, who were meeting when the strike was conducted," the press release stated.


al Qaeda in Afghanistan? I'm Shocked!

Punching another hole in the Obama administration's assertion that there are only a "handful" of al Qaeda in Afghanistan...

From ISAF (September 25, 2010):

KABUL, Afghanistan - Coalition forces conducted a precision air strike in Kunar province last night targeting an Al Qaida senior commander who coordinates the attacks of a group of Arab fighters in Kunar and Nuristan province. The Al Qaida facilitators and extremists he works with throughout the Middle East directly threaten the safety and security of Afghan government officials and civilians. He routinely facilitates the travel of foreign fighters into the region.

The commander's older brother was killed in a coalition force precision strike in March 2009. The brothers worked in tandem for several years facilitating for the Al Qaida network.

"These operations prevent violent extremists from being able to threaten Afghan sovereignty or maintain safe havens from which they can threaten the security of people around the world," said U.S. Air Force Col. James Dawkins, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command Combined Joint Operations Center director. "We deliberately targeted a major threat last night, which will significantly degrade the Al Qaeda activities throughout the region."

Based on intelligence sources, coalition forces tracked the commander to a remote compound in Darah-ye Pech District. After verifying his location and careful planning to help reduce the collateral damage, coalition forces conducted a precision air strike on the targeted compound, which was subsequently destroyed. The International Security Assistance Force is still gathering information to assess the results of the strike.

"Just like we do with all of our precision air strikes, we balanced the possible risks posed by precision air strikes with the dangers posed by the targeted individual. In this instance we decided we could not let this opportunity pass us by," said Dawkins. "Careful planning, de-confliction with Afghan authorities and intelligence gathering helped ensure collateral damage was kept to a minimum."


More Proof of al Qaeda in Afghanistan

The Taliban is now using Ford Pintos as suicide vehicles.

The Haqqani Network is not known to use suicide bombers. Not until recently, when ties between the Network and al Qaeda have been strengthened. Suicide bombing is a distinctly Arab phenomenon, not Taliban. To see the more aggressive use of suicide bombing indicates close cooperation between the militants and the global jihadists.

From ISAF (September 24, 2010):

PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – At least five insurgents were killed and one captured during a failed attack on Forward Operating Base Gardez in Patkya Province Sept. 24.

The attack began when a vehicle, followed closely by four suicide-vest-wearing insurgents, attempted to breach a fortified area of the base.
Coalition forces engaged the vehicle, destroying it and disrupting the attack. The remaining attackers were killed as they attempted to flee the scene.

In the aftermath of the incident, explosive ordnance disposal Soldiers found and disposed of the suicide vests.

Two Afghan Security Guards were wounded during the attack and an Afghan civilian employed at the base was killed. No coalition forces were killed or injured.

The operation is still ongoing with coalition forces pursuing the remainder of the attacking force, estimated to be around 20.

From the Longwar Journal (September 25, 2010):

Since the end of August, the Haqqani Network has carried out five major attacks against heavily defended US outposts in eastern Afghanistan.

On Aug. 28, Haqqani Network fighters launched coordinated attacks against Forward Operating Bases Salerno and Chapman in Khost province. US and Afghan troops routed the Haqqani Network fighters, killing more than 35, including a commander, during and after the attacks. Several of the fighters were wearing US Army uniforms, and 13 were armed with suicide vests. During raids in the aftermath of the attacks, US forces killed and captured several commanders and fighters.

On Sept. 2, the Haqqani Network attempted to storm Combat Outpost Margah in the Bermel district of Paktika province. US troops repelled the attack with mortar and small-arms fire, then called in helicopter gunships to finish off the attackers; 20 were reported killed.

And in the last attack, on Sept. 21, US troops killed 27 Haqqani Network fighters as they mustered to assault Combat Outpost Spera.

The Taliban and the Haqqani Network have launched attacks at several major installations across the country this year. In May, a small team attempted to breach security at Kandahar Airfield after launching a rocket attack on the base; another small team conducted a suicide assault at the main gate at Bagram Airbase in Parwan province. In June, the Taliban launched an assault against Jalalabad Airfield in Nangarhar province. The Taliban carried out a suicide assault against the Afghan National Civil Order Police headquarters in Kandahar City in July; three US soldiers were killed in the attack, which included a suicide car bomber and a follow-on assault team. And in early August, the Taliban again conducted a complex attack at Kandahar Airfield. All of the attacks were successfully repelled by Coalition and Afghan forces.


Ground Combat in Laghman Kills 30

I’ve been a way for a couple of days and boy did I miss some important events in AfPak. First, a nice-sized direct action engagement in Laghman Province in Afghanistan.

From the Longwar Journal (September 25, 2010):

A combined Coalition and Afghan force killed more than 30 Taliban fighters during an air assault in the eastern Afghan province of Laghman.

A 250-man force of Coalition and Afghan troops as well as Afghan police air assaulted into the Alishang district in Laghman to conduct "security and clearing patrols" when they took fire from Taliban forces in the area, the International Secuirty Assistance Force stated in a press release.

ISAF claimed that more than 30 "enemy fighters" were killed during the clashes, and that there were no reports of civilian casualties.

Muhammad Iqbal Azizi, the Governor of Laghman, told Pajwok Afghan News that 31 Taliban were killed; he also denied reports that civilians were killed.

Local Afghans in Alishang claimed that some civilians were among those killed, and one even claimed that all of those killed were civilians. More than 200 people protested the operations, according to Pajwok.

Laghman was the scene of the Aug. 4 clash between Afghan forces and the Taliban and allied terror groups. A battalion of Afghan troops air assaulted into the Badpakh area and were stopped cold by a coordinated ambush. Thirteen Afghan troops and two policemen were killed and more than 10 were captured. At one point in the battle, the Afghan Army Corps headquarters lost communications with the battalion.

During the fighting in August, the Taliban were supported by the Lashkar al Zil, or the Shadow Army, al Qaeda's paramilitary force. One Arab and one Chechen were reported killed in the fighting in Laghman.

The Lashkar al Zil has been involved in some of the more high-profile, complex assaults in Afghanistan over the past several years, including an assault on a US outpost in Wanat in Nuristan in July 2008, the deadly ambush of a French battalion in Kabul province in August 2008, assaults on two combat outposts in Kamdesh in Nuristan in October 2009, and most recently, a sustained assault in the district of Barg-e-Matal in Nuristan in July 2010.

The Taliban and al Qaeda have been stepping up efforts in eastern Afghanistan as ISAF and Afghan forces focus on tamping down the insurgency in Kandahar and Helmand in the south, General Mohammad Zaman Mamozai, the commander of the Afghan Border Police in the east said in August. The Afghan Taliban "are being supported by other terrorist networks including Al Qaeda, Tajikistani, Chechen, and Pakistani Taliban," as well as Taliban fighters from Waziristan, Mamozai told Larawbar and BBC Urdu. According to Mamozai, the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters stage across the border in Pakistan's tribal agency of Bajaur. The top commanders are Arab, Pakistan, Chechen, or Tajiks, Mamozai said.