Top al-Qaeda operative believed killed

A top al-Qaeda operative indicted for the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Africa was the target of a Pakistani military strike and is believed to have been killed, a security official said on Thursday.

The raid, which destroyed two houses on Wednesday night, is believed to have killed Egyptian-born explosives expert Abdul Rahman al-Muhajir and seven other militants, the senior official told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Al-Muhajir is one of many aliases of Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah, who carries a $5-million bounty on his head and was indicted for the attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania which killed more than 220 people.

“Al-Muhajir was the target of the raid,” the official said on condition of anonymity. The raid involving helicopter gunships also killed two women and a child, he said.

Military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan confirmed the raid targeted foreign militants in Anghar town, 6km south of Miranshah—the main town in North Waziristan tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

“I am not in a position to comment on it,” Sultan told AFP when asked if he could confirm that al-Muhajir was killed in the raid. “We can confirm the identities of the foreigners killed once we have carried out a thorough ground check.”

US intelligence said Rahman’s real name was Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah.
He had been operating under different aliases: Abdul Rahman, Abdul Rahman Al-Muhajir, Abdel Rahman and Mohammed KA al-Namer.

A US Central Investigation Agency’s list of most wanted al-Qaeda “terrorists” described him as a senior explosives expert.

“He is involved in multiple operations and may be knowledgeable of CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear]” attacks, the list seen by AFP said. It described his location in Pakistan. It also described him as a close associate of former al-Qaeda operations chief Hamza Rabia, who was killed in an explosion in the same region late last year.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website describes Atwah as among the “most wanted terrorists”.

The 41-year-old Egyptian was indicted in the Southern District of New York for his alleged involvement in the bombings of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, on August 7 1998, it said.

Wednesday’s raid was the latest in a series of army operations against suspected militants in lawless North Waziristan in the past few weeks.

Sultan said Cobra helicopters and helicopter gunships were used on Thursday in knocking out the militants’ hideout. “Some foreigners were killed,” he said. He did not have an exact number nor their identities and nationalities.

The security official said the raid destroyed two houses belonging to local tribe members Muhammed Akbar and Jalandhar Shah.

“Five foreigners including al-Muhajir were targeted in the house owned by Shah, which was completely destroyed,” the official said.

He said three “miscreants were killed in the house of Akbar along with two women and a child”.

Pakistan has deployed 80 000 troops on the border to hunt militants who took refuge in the rugged tribal belt after Afghanistan’s Taliban regime was toppled following the September 11 2001 attacks on the US

Since then it has captured around 700 al-Qaeda militants. Major catches include chief 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Tanzanian Ahmad Khalfan Ghailani, who was also indicted in the 1998 bombing in East Africa.

President Pervez Musharraf, a key US ally in “war on terror” last month warned foreign insurgents to leave the tribal belt or be killed.—AFP

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