Afghan security forces on Sunday claimed to have killed Husam Abd al-Rauf, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, during a raid last week in eastern Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security Forces (ANDSF) said on Twitter that they killed Rauf, a top al-Qaeda propagandist who was ranked on the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s most-wanted list. The raid reportedly took place in the village of Kunsaf, located in the Andar district of Ghazni province, approximately 90 miles southwest of the national capital, Kabul, two Afghan government officials said on Sunday.
“Al-Qaeda did not immediately acknowledge al-Rauf’s reported death. The FBI, the U.S. military, and NATO did not immediately respond to requests for comment,” the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Afghan special forces led by the country’s intelligence service raided Kunsaf, the deputy head of Ghazni’s provincial council, Amanullah Kamrani, told the AP on Sunday. Kamrani described Kunsaf as Taliban-controlled.
“On the village’s outskirts, they stormed an isolated home and killed seven suspected militants in a firefight, including al-Rauf,” Kamrani said.
“Neither Kamrani nor the intelligence agency offered details on how authorities identified al-Rauf, nor how they came to suspect he was in the village,” according to AP.
“Kamrani alleged, without providing evidence, that the Taliban had been offering shelter and protection to al-Rauf,” the AP noted.
The Taliban told the news agency on Sunday that it was investigating the alleged incident.
The jihadi terror group’s alleged protection of Rauf would violate the terms of a February 29 agreement with the U.S. which allowed peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government to begin on September 12. The Taliban agreed on February 29 “not to cooperate with groups or individuals threatening the security of the United States and its allies,” including al-Qaeda.
The Afghan Presidential Palace (Arg) issued a series of statements on Twitter on Sunday appearing to confirm Rauf’s death, referring to him by his alternate name, Abu Muhsin al-Masri:
[Afghan] President [Ashraf] Ghani praises ANDSF for killing Al-Qaida key member in Ghazni
The valiant Afghan Defense and Security forces succeeded to kill Abu Muhsin Almisry, a key member of Al-Qaida terrorist network for the India sub-continent during a special operation in Ghazni province.
“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,” according to the AP.
The FBI subsequently added him to their “Most Wanted Terrorists” list.
Rauf was believed to have been born in 1958. His nom de guerre — “al-Masri,” meaning “the Egyptian” in Arabic — refers to his Egyptian nationality.
“An al-Qaeda-issued biography said he joined the mujahedeen fighters who battled the Soviet Union in 1986,” according to the AP. “He … served for years as Al Qaeda’s media chief, offering audio statements and written articles backing the militant group.”
After years of silence following the acknowledgment of Taliban founder Mullah Omar’s death, Rauf re-emerged in 2018, releasing an audio statement in which he mocked U.S. President Donald Trump and the U.S. leaders who preceded him.
“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,” Rauf said in the 2018 audio clip, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
The U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) launched an airstrike on Sunday evening in central Afghanistan, killing five Taliban terrorists.
USFOR-A conducted a targeted strike in Nerkh, Wardak last night- in defense of the ANDSF and in accordance with the U.S.-TB Agreement- killing 5 Taliban fighters. We reject the allegations of violating the agreement and of killing innocent Afghans.@Zabehulah_M33 @IeaOffice
— USFOR-A Spokesman Col Sonny Leggett (@USFOR_A) October 26, 2020
“We reject the allegations of violating the agreement and of killing innocent Afghans,” Leggett added.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Monday that “that there had been no fighting when the strike took place, and it broke the terms of agreement.”
“This attack is a violation of the agreement and we condemn it,” Mujahid said.
The Taliban accused the U.S. of violating the February 29 agreement earlier this month after USFOR-A conducted airstrikes in southern Helmand province.