Afghanistan claims it has killed a top al Qaeda propagandist on an FBI most wanted list during an operation in the east of the country.
The reported death of Husam Abd al-Rauf, also known as Abu Muhsin al-Masri, comes after weeks of violence, including a suicide bombing on 24 October claimed by Islamic State at an education centre near Kabul which left 24 dead.
Details about the raid that led to al-Rauf’s death remain unclear, hours after Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security intelligence service claimed on Twitter to have killed him in Ghazni province.
The raid happened last week in Kunsaf, a village in Ghazni province and 90 miles south-west of Kabul, two government officials said.
Amanullah Kamrani, the deputy head of Ghazni’s provincial council, said Afghan special forces led by the intelligence agency raided Kunsaf, which he described as being under Taliban control.
It said one of its members was killed in the operation.
On the village’s outskirts, they stormed an isolated home and killed seven suspected militants, including al-Rauf, Mr Kamrani said.
Neither Mr Kamrani nor the intelligence service provided details on how al-Rauf was identified or how they came to suspect he was in the village.
A spokesman for the provincial governor of Ghazni said six suspected militants had been killed in the raid without acknowledging al-Rauf was among the dead.
Mr Kamrani alleged, without providing evidence, the Taliban had been sheltering and protecting al-Rauf.
The Afghan government continues to fight Taliban militants even as face-to-face peace talks take place for the first time between the two sides in Qatar.
The violence and al-Rauf’s reported killing threatens the peace talks and risk plunging the country into further instability.
It also complicated the United States’ efforts to withdraw from Afghanistan, 19 years after the invasion targeting the Taliban for hosting al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11 attacks.
If the Taliban had provided protection for al-Rauf, it would violate the terms of its deal with the US which kick-started the Afghan peace talks.
The deal saw the Taliban agree “not to co-operate with groups or individuals threatening the security of the United States and its allies”, which includes al Qaeda.
Federal prosecutors in New York filed a warrant for al-Rauf’s arrest in December 2018, accusing him of providing support to a foreign terrorist organisation and being part of a conspiracy to kill US citizens.
The FBI put him on the bureau’s most wanted terrorist list, which now includes 27 others.
Cover image: Afghan flag flies over an observation post in Pekha Valley, Achin District, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan (Picture: US Army).