Afghan forces hunt down al-Qaeda leader in latest blow to terror group


Afghan National Army commandos are seen during a training exercise on November 9 in Herat Province. [Omar]

Afghan National Army commandos are seen during a training exercise on November 9 in Herat Province. [Omar]

KABUL -- Afghan forces have killed al-Qaeda leader Mohammad Hanif in Farah Province, marking their latest success against the terrorist group.

Hanif was a close aide to Asim Omar, who headed al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and was killed in a joint US-Afghan operation in 2019, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) said in a statement Tuesday (November 10).

Hanif, originally from Karachi, Pakistan, had "close relations" with the Taliban and helped train militants in making car bombs and improvised explosive devices, said the NDS.

It said he was initially a member of the Taliban but joined al-Qaeda in 2010.

Officials have long accused the hard-line Taliban of maintaining close links to al-Qaeda, blamed for the deadly September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Two Pakistani women were detained in the operation that led to Hanif's killing, the NDS said, without providing further details.

The Taliban have not commented.

The Taliban's sheltering of al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, was the main justification for the United States-led overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001.

Afghan forces' success

Hanif's killing comes after security agents killed Abu Muhsin al-Masri, a top al-Qaeda militant long wanted by the United States.

Al-Masri, an Egyptian national believed to be the number-two leader of AQIS, was targeted and killed in Andar District, Ghazni Province, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) said in a statement October 25.

"The Afghan security forces, especially special forces, are professional and now have excellent combat experience," Gen. (ret.) Aziz Ahmad Wardak, a Kabul-based military affairs analyst, said at the time.

"Their skills and equipment are at the level of the international coalition forces, which is why these forces have been able to eliminate the prominent leaders and commanders of terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS," he added, using the acronym for the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria".

"The Afghan security and defence forces have been conducting all ground and air operations independently for some time now, and the successful planning and execution of their operations, which resulted in the death of al-Qaeda's second-in-command [in the sub-continent], are commendable," Wardak said.

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The Taliban group must respond to the people and the world for what al-Qaeda members are doing in our country, and why this group has not severed their ties with al-Qaeda. In the past few months, several prominent members of al-Qaeda have been killed and captured by the Afghan security forces, and we want all the media, and especially your media outlet to include Taliban’s opinion also in your report that what are the Taliban’s reactions towards the death of Al-Qaeda leader. Media should be impartial and when they publish report on war and peace, they should ask for opinions of both warring sides and include their quotations in their report.