Center for Strategic Communication

Rashid Rauf while in Pakistani custody. Click to view.

A senior al Qaeda operative who had been plotting terror attacks in Europe and had escaped Pakistani custody in December 2007 was killed in a drone strike, according to family members who are planning to sue the British government.

Rauf’s family is planning on suing the British government for providing information to the US that aided in targeting him, according to the Birmingham Mail.

“The Americans could not have found and killed him without help from British intelligence officers who shared information,” a friend of the Rauf family who has maintained he was innocent told the Birmingham Mail. “The family want answers. They want to see the evidence that Rashid was a dangerous terrorist.”

Rauf’s status has been uncertain for years after he was first reported to have been killed in a November 2008 Predator strike in North Waziristan that was also thought to have killed Abu Zubair al Masri and two other al Qaeda operatives. Shortly after the November strike, Rauf’s family and his lawyer claimed he was still alive. Taliban fighters close to Rauf also said he was alive.

US and British intelligence initially thought Rauf was killed in the November 2008 drone strike, but the assessment changed after an al Qaeda operative detained during a raid in Belgium claimed that Rauf had trained him and dispatched him to Brussels to conduct a suicide attack during a meeting of European leaders, The Times Online reported in April 2009. The operative also said Rauf had plotted attacks in major cities in Belgium, France, Holland, and England. Rauf has also been implicated as being the director of the failed plot to conduct attacks in England on Easter Sunday in 2009.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said they no longer believe Rauf was killed in the November 2008 strike, but said he may have been killed in one of the more than 270 strikes that have taken place since then. Officials would not comment on the exact strike that killed Rauf.

“It is often difficult to determine when an al Qaeda leader or operative was killed or if they survived targeting,” one official involved in the air campaign against al Qaeda and other terror groups operating in Pakistan told The Long War Journal.

“We don’t have a body, we can’t go there to investigate,” the official continued. “The fact is, that despite our persistent targeting [with drones], the FATA [Pakistan’s tribal areas] remains a no-go area. This is Taliban territory.”

Background on Rashid Rauf

Rashid Rauf has a long pedigree in Pakistan’s terror circles. Rauf’s family is well immersed in Pakistan’s radical jihadi community. He is a relative of Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, a terror outfit that operates in Indian Kashmir. Rauf’s sister-in-law is married to Azhar’s brother. Rauf himself is a member of Jaish-e-Mohammad, which has merged with al Qaeda and moved a large number of its fighters into Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Rauf’s father-in-law and sister-in-law run the radical Darul Uloom Madina, one of Pakistan’s largest Islamic seminaries in Bahawalpur. More than 2,000 students attend the Darul Uloom Madina.

His father founded Crescent Relief, a Muslim charity that collected funds for earthquake relief and is currently under investigation for funneling money to fund the failed 2006 London airliner plot.

Rauf was a prolific operational node in the al Qaeda network. He facilitated the 7/7/05 bombings in London and a follow-on attack that failed on 7/21/05, and a plot against as many as 10 airliners originating from Heathrow Airport in the summer of 2006.

Rauf and senior al Qaeda leader Matiur Rehman were the architects of the 2006 London airliner plot. Rehman is a senior al Qaeda leader who is known to manage the “jihadi rolodex,” the list of the tens of thousands of operatives who have passed through terror training camps over the years. Tayib Rauf, Rashid Rauf’s brother, was arrested in Britain for his involvement with the London airliner plot along with 22 other suspects. The British government froze the bank accounts of Tayib and 18 other suspects. Most of the suspects arrested in Britain were British nationals of Pakistani origin.

Pakistani security forces captured Rauf in August 2006 in the city of Bahawalpur. On Dec. 15, 2007, he escaped from Pakistani custody, under dubious circumstances. Police escorts claim Rauf broke free of his handcuffs as he was visiting a mosque while being transported from a court appearance in Islamabad to a jail in Rawalpindi. Rauf’s uncle had convinced police to transport Rauf in a van and had driven the van himself. Several police were charged with being complicit in Rauf’s escape.

At the time of Rauf’s escape, the British government was attempting to extradite him. A senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal that Rauf fled to South Waziristan immediately after his escape.