By: The Kabul Times
KABUL: Afghan forces have killed a top al Qaeda militant wanted by the United States, as the government on Sunday accused the Taliban of still keeping close ties with the militant group.
Abu Muhsin al-Masri, an Egyptian national believed to be the group’s number-two in the Indian subcontinent, was targeted in eastern Ghazni province, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security said in a statement. The NDS did not provide further details about the operation or when it was carried out.
Masri’s killing was an indication of the relationship between the Taliban and al Qaeda, Afghanistan’s Interior Minister Masoud Andarabi claimed on Sunday without providing details.
“The killing of one of the key Al-Qaeda member, al-Masri by the National Directorate of Security demonstrates close ties of the Taliban with the terrorist groups that are operating against the Afghan government and its people,” he tweeted. “They still keep close relations with the terrorist groups and they are lying to different sides.”
The Taliban sheltering of al Qaeda was the original reason for the US invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In a landmark deal between the United States and the Taliban in February, the Taliban agreed to not allow Afghan soil to be used by foreign extremists including al Qaeda in return for Washington withdrawing its troops.
Al-Masri, who also goes by the name Husam Abd-al-Ra’uf, is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list. A US warrant for his arrest was issued in December 2018, after he was charged with providing support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization and plotting to kill US nationals, according to the FBI.
A source at the Afghan intelligence agency, who did not want to be named, told AFP that an aide to al-Masri who was “in contact with the Taliban” was also detained during the operation in Ghazni province, a volatile region where Taliban fighters are very active.