Senior al-Qaeda leader Abu Muhsin al-Masri killed in Afghanistan

Afghan security forces have killed Abu Muhsin al-Masri, a senior al-Qaeda leader who was on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Most Wanted Terrorists list, according to Afghanistan’s intelligence service.

Al-Masri, an Egyptian national believed to be al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, was killed during a special operation in the central Ghazni province, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) said in a tweet late on Saturday.

Al-Masri, who also goes by the name Husam Abd-al-Ra’uf, has been charged in the United States with having provided material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organisation, and conspiracy to kill US nationals. The US issued a warrant for his arrest in December 2018.

 

The head of the US National Counter-Terrorism Center, Chris Miller, confirmed al-Masri’s death 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”.

Al Qaeda’s loss of al-Masri, Miller continued, “highlights the diminishing effectiveness of the terrorist organisation”.

Last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said fewer than 200 al-Qaeda operatives remain in Afghanistan.

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The death of al-Masri was announced on the same day that 18 people were killed in a suicide bombing at an education centre in the Afghan capital, Kabul. At least 57 others were wounded in the attack in the area that is home to many from Afghanistan’s minority Shia community.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack and the Taliban denied any link.

This month marks 19 years since the US invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban rulers, who had harboured al-Qaeda fighters who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

The US has been gradually drawing down its troops from Afghanistan after striking a landmark deal with the Taliban in February.

That deal is set to see foreign forces leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula with the Afghan government.

The intra-Afghan peace process kicked off in the Qatari capital, Doha, last month. Despite the talks, fighting between Taliban and Afghan government forces has raged in recent weeks.

Last week, US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said the Taliban had agreed to “re-set” their commitments under a troop withdrawal deal and reduce the number of casualties in the country.

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