Top Al-Qaeda leader killed in Farah: NDS

Mohammad Hanif Alias Abdullah leader of Al-Qaeda for the Indian Sub-continent was killed by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) Special Forces in an operation in the Bakwa district of Farah province, said Tuesday in a statement.

According to the statement, Hanif, a Pakistani national and a very close aide to Asim Omer, was given shelter and protection by the Taliban.

He also was deputy so-called Amir for AQIS for a period, the statement noted.

“This person had a membership of the Taliban group and after 2010 he also became a member of the al-Qaeda network. In the same year, he entered Helmand with the direct cooperation of the Taliban, and then with the help of the Taliban he was moved to Farah province,” NDS statement said.

The statement further indicated that Hanif also had close ties with the Taliban and assisted and trained the Taliban members in explosives, car bombs, and improvised explosive devices.

The Taliban, however, did not comment yet.

The latest development comes as last month, the NDS forces had killed an al-Qaeda key member for the Indian sub-continent, Abu Muhsen al-Masri in an operation in Ghazni province.

Al-Masri, an Egyptian national was believed to be the “second-in-command” in al-Qaeda and had been on the US’s Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Most Wanted Terrorist list.

Meanwhile, a UN official previously had claimed that despite the Taliban’s pledge in February to cut ties with al-Qaeda, the group is still “heavily embedded” within the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Speaking to the BBC, Edmund Fitton-Brown, co-ordinator of the UN’s Islamic State, al-Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Team, said there has been regular communication between the two groups despite the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha in February.

“The Taliban were talking regularly and at a high level with al-Qaeda and reassuring them that they would honor their historic ties,” Fitton-Brown said.

According to him, the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban was “not substantively” changed by the deal struck with the US.

“Al-Qaeda is heavily embedded with the Taliban and they do a good deal of military action and training activities with the Taliban, and that has not changed,” he said.

BBC reported that although al-Qaeda’s strength and ability to strike the West has significantly diminished over the past decade, its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is believed to still be based in Afghanistan along with a number of other senior figures in the group.

But, Fitton-Brown said despite its lower profile, al-Qaeda remained “resilient” and “dangerous”.

Earlier to that UN in a report states that the Taliban has failed to fulfill one of the core parts of the US-Taliban agreement, namely that it would break ties with al-Qaeda. The agreement was signed in February in Doha, Qatar, after months of negotiations.

Al-Qaeda has 400 to 600 operatives active in 12 Afghan provinces and is running training camps in the east of the country, according to the report.
The Afghan government has also previously spoken of the Taliban’s close ties to ISIS and other terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.