Yesterday’s drone strike in the Ghulam Khan area of Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan is reported to have killed Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a senior Haqqani Network leader who is on the US list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists for supporting al Qaeda, as well as an al Qaeda explosives expert from Egypt who is known as Zubir al Muzi.
Pakistani intelligence sources told Reuters that Sangeen is thought to have been among those killed in yesterday’s airstrike on a compound that was carried out by the US. Additionally, “a source among insurgents” in the area said that Muzi was also killed in the strike.
US intelligence officials who track al Qaeda in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region told The Long War Journal that they are aware of the reports of the deaths of Sangeen and Muzi, but are waiting for confirmation.
Neither the Haqqani Network nor al Qaeda have released statements confirming or denying the reports of their deaths. Al Qaeda and the Haqqani Network often do not announce the deaths of military commanders.
Sangeen is a senior Haqqani Network leader who is on the US list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists for supporting al Qaeda and who holds a captured a US soldier in Afghanistan. Sangeen serves as the Taliban’s shadow governor for Paktika province and is a top aide to Sirajuddin Haqqani, the operational commander of the Haqqani Network.
Muzi, the al Qaeda explosive expert, is a mid-level commander in al Qaeda’s Lashkar al Zil, or Shadow Army, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. The Lashkar al Zil fields small conventional units in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and also embeds military trainers within Taliban units in both countries. These trainers provide instructions for battling security forces in local insurgencies as well as knowledge, expertise, funding, and resources to conduct local and international attacks.
The US Treasury Department officially acknowledged the existence of this unit when it added one such Pakistan-based trainer and commander of al Qaeda’s “paramilitary brigades” to the list of global terrorists in June. [For more information on this unit, see LWJ report, Al Qaeda’s paramilitary ‘Shadow Army,’ from February 2009.]
Sangeen and Muzi are the second pair of Haqqani Network and al Qaeda commanders reported to have been killed in drone strikes this summer. On July 2, a drone strike is said to have killed Abu Saif al Jaziri, a Lashkar al Zil commander, and Maulana Akhtar Zadran, a Haqqani Network officer.
Sangeen is closely allied with al Qaeda
Sangeen has long been a supporter of al Qaeda and has encouraged foreign fighters to wage jihad in Afghanistan. He appeared in several videos released over the past year that called for Turks and Kurds to fight in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
In the past, Sangeen has openly admitted the strong links between the Haqqani Network and al Qaeda. In an interview released in September 2009 by As Sahab, al Qaeda’s top media outlet, Sangeen said al Qaeda and the Taliban “are all one and are united by Islam.”
“We do not see any difference between Taliban and Al Qaeda, for we all belong to the religion of Islam. Sheikh Osama [bin Laden] has pledged allegiance to Amir Al-Mumineen [the Leader of the Faithful, Mullah Muhammad Omar] and has reassured his leadership again and again. There is no difference between us, for we are united by Islam and the Sharia governs us,” Sangeen told As Sahab.
US military officials have told The Long War Journal that Sangeen is considered to be one of the most dangerous operational commanders in eastern Afghanistan. Sangeen has organized numerous assaults on US and Afghan combat outposts in the region, and is currently holding Bowe Bergdahl, the only US soldier captured alive in the Afghan theater.