Jihadists on Twitter who are thought to be connected to al Qaeda’s senior leadership have reported that the group’s paramilitary commander in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region as well as a propagandist were killed in airstrikes earlier this year.
The two slain al Qaeda operatives were identified as Sufyan al Maghribi, a Moroccan who served as al Qaeda’s military chief in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Umar al Talib, a propagandist who narrated videos for As Sahab.
Their deaths were reported on Twitter by influential online jihadists, including “Maktabah Askariyah Shamilah” and “Al Wathiq Billah,” who are said to be connected to senior al Qaeda leaders. The two jihadists have provided accurate information about al Qaeda’s senior leadership in the past. For instance, in April 2013, Al Wathiq Billah noted that Abu Ubaydah Abdullah al Adam, a senior al Qaeda leader who served as the group’s intelligence chief, was killed in a drone strike. Al Qaeda later acknowledged al Adam’s death. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda intelligence chief reported killed in drone strike.]
The exact dates of the deaths of the two al Qaeda operatives have not been disclosed. Al Qaeda has not released official statements announcing their deaths.
Sufyan al Maghribi
Suyfan is said to have been killed in a drone strike in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region in March.
“Al Qaeda’s military official in Khorasan [the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater] was also killed in a drone strike,” Shamilah tweeted on Sept. 7.
Billah confirmed Sufyan’s death, and noted that outside of al Qaeda’s inner circles he was relatively unknown, as are most of the group’s important commanders who work in the shadows.
“I ask Allah to accept you among the ranks of the martyrs,” Billah said on Sept. 7. “People such as these you do not hear a sound from them, they work in silence and leave in silence.”
If the reports of Sufyan’s death are true, he was likely killed in Afghanistan, as the US did not launch any strikes in Pakistan between the end of December 2013 and mid-June of this year.
A jihadist known as Sarkhat al Ani tweeted that he personally knew Sufyan, and described him as “the last of those who remain from the veteran Moroccans of Khorasan.”
Al Ani described Suyfan as a “hijra [migration, presumably to Afghanistan] companion” of Abu Ahmad al Maghribi, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who is also known as Ibrahim Bin Shakaran and Brahim Benchekroune. Bin Shakaran was a Moroccan who spent more than three years at the Guantanamo detention facility before being released to Moroccan custody. He was killed this spring while leading a jihadist group that fights Syrian government forces.
“Praised is Allah it is as if he [Suyfan] could take no more following his hijra companion’s dismounting to Khorasan Abu Ahmad al Maghribi,” Al Ani tweeted on Sept. 7.
“His origins are from the Amazigh [Berbers] of distant Morocco and he hails from Dar al Baydha [Casablanca] from the Sha’abi district which has provided and still does provide many martyrs,” Al Ani continued.
Al Maghribi replaced Farman Shinwari, the previous commander of al Qaeda’s paramilitary forces in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Shinwari, a commander in the al Qaeda-linked Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, is thought to have been killed sometime in 2013. In a video released by al Qaeda in May 2013, the group referred to Shinwari as if he were dead.
Shinwari replaced Badr Mansoor, who was killed in a drone strike in 2012. Mansoor, who commanded an al Qaeda “company,” was also a leader in the Harakat-ul-Mujahideen. Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen is currently running training camps in Afghanistan. The US is reported to have killed two Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen commanders in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province over the weekend. [See LWJ reports, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen ‘operates terrorist training camps in eastern Afghanistan’ and 2 al Qaeda commanders reported killed in US airstrike in eastern Afghanistan.]
Some of al Qaeda’s most revered leaders have served as military commander in the Afghan-Pakistan theater. Previous leaders are Ilyas Kashmiri, Abdallah Sa’id al Libi, and Abu Laith al Libi. All three commanders were killed in US drone strikes in Pakistan.
Umar al Talib
Umar al Talib is a Saudi citizen whose real name is Adil Salih Ahmad al Qumayshi. He is on Saudi Arabia’s list of 47 most wanted terrorists, which was issued in 2011.
Shamilah tweeted that al Talib was “killed about two months ago” and identified him as al Qumayshi.
“I ask Allah to accept him [as a martyr] and make his residence the highest paradise,” he continued.
Billah confirmed his death “in an American airstrike on the soil of Khorasan.”
Sufyan “spent half of his life in the battlefields of jihad,” Billah continued, and
The US launched one drone strike in Pakistan in July. Several “foreigners,” a term used to describe Arabs and other foreign fighters, were reported to have been killed in the strike, which took place in Datta Khel, a known hub for al Qaeda’s leadership cadre in North Waziristan.