Al Qaeda Propaganda Leader Killed by Afghanistan Special Forces

U.S. Army Capt. Aaron Daniele sits next to elders from the village of Tieranon in Pashmul, Afghanistan, in an effort to establish an Afghan Local Police unit in their village, Feb. 13, 2013.(Bryan Denton/The New York Times)

Afghan security forces said a top al-Qaeda propagandist on an FBI most-wanted list was killed during an operation that claimed a reproted seven AQ soldiers.

Husam Abd al-Rauf was also known by the nom de guerre Abu Muhsin al-Masri. His death follows weeks of violence, including an ISIS-claimed suicide bombing Saturday at an education centre near Kabul that killed 24 people. Meanwhile, the Afghan government continues to fight Taliban militants even as peace talks in Qatar between the two sides take place for the first time.

Details over the raid that led to al-Rauf’s death were still limited, hours after Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security intelligence service claimed on Twitter to have killed him in Ghazni province.

The Afghan raid happened last week in Kunsaf, a village in Ghazni province’s Andar district some 150 kilometres southwest of Kabul, two government officials told The Associated Press.

Amanullah Kamrani, the deputy head of Ghazni’s provincial council, told AP that Afghan special forces led by the intelligence agency raided Kunsaf, which he described as being under Taliban control. On the village’s outskirts, they stormed an isolated home and killed seven suspected militants in a firefight, including al-Rauf, Kamrani said.

Wahidullah Jumazada, a spokesperson for the provincial governor in Ghazni, said Afghan forces killed six suspected militants in the raid, without acknowledging al-Rauf had been killed.

Kamrani said the Taliban had been offering shelter and protection to al-Rauf. The Taliban told the AP on Sunday they are investigating the incident, without elaborating.

If the Taliban had provided protection for al-Rauf, that would violate the terms of its Feb. 29 deal with the U.S. that jump-started the Afghan peace talks. That deal saw the Taliban agree “not to cooperate with groups or individuals threatening the security of the United States and its allies,” which includes al-Qaeda.

Federal prosecutors in the southern district of New York filed a warrant for al-Rauf’s arrest in December 2018, accusing him of providing support to a foreign terrorist organization and being part of a conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens. The FBI put him on the bureau’s “Most Wanted Terrorists” list, which now includes 27 others.

The red-headed al-Rauf, believed to be born in 1958, is an Egyptian national. An al-Qaeda-issued biography said he joined the mujahedeen fighters who battled the Soviet Union in 1986.

He has served for years as al-Qaeda’s media chief, offering audio statements and written articles backing the militant group. After years of remaining silent following the acknowledgement of Taliban founder Mullah Omar’s death, al-Rauf re-emerged in 2018 in an audio statement in which he mocked U.S. President Donald Trump and those who preceded him the White House.

“I name him `Donald T-Rambo’ who tries to copy the famous American fictional character `Rambo,’ who, with only a Kalashnikov, was able to liberate the entire Afghanistan from the Soviet Union,” al-Rauf said, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

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