Nato kills senior al-Qaeda man

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					One of the most senior al-Qaeda figures in Afghanistan was killed in a
weekend air strike, Nato-led forces say.

In a statement, Nato described Saudi-born Sakhar al-Taifi as the group’s
second most senior figure in Afghanistan.

He commanded foreign insurgents and directed attacks against coalition
and Afghan forces, the statement said.

But Taliban sources in Kunar deny Al-Taifi was killed and claim he left
the area three months ago.

Sakhar al-Taifi died in “a precision air strike” in the Watapur district
of Kunar province on Sunday night, according to the Nato statement.
Another rank-and-file member of al-Qaeda was killed at the same time, it

But Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told the Afghan Islamic Press
news agency that a bombing raid in the area had killed two Afghan

“There are no al-Qaeda fighters in Watapur and no foreign national was
killed there,” he said.

Al-Taifi, who also went by the names of Mustaq and Nasim, arranged for
weapons and insurgent fighters to be transported into Afghanistan, Nato

He reportedly had strong links to Taliban fighters in the area.

Senior intelligence officials have told the BBC’s Bilal Sarwary that al-
Taifi had expertise in making roadside bombs and suicide vests, but that
he also funded and trained suicide attackers in Kunar.

Al-Taifi replaced the al-Qaeda commander Abu Ikhlas al-Masri who was
captured in Afghanistan’s volatile Kunar province.

Nato estimates that there are fewer than 100 al-Qaeda operatives in the
country. However, the border with Pakistan where the fighters operate is
porous, says the BBC’s Quentin Sommerville in Kabul.

Troops on the ground often report hearing the voices of Arabic-speaking
insurgents over radios – when they do, immediate attacks are launched
against those sites, he says.

Kunar has always been known as a crucible of conflict – a haven for
millitants in the north-eastern corner of Afghanistan and bordering
Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Correspondents say it is one of the first ports of call for insurgents
crossing the mountain passes from Pakistan.
Among the many documents seized from the compound of Osama Bin Laden in
Pakistan after he was killed last May was a letter to Atiya Abdul Rahman,
al-Qaeda’s top operational planner, in which the al-Qaeda leader advised
militants to seek refuge in Kunar because of its terrain.

“Kunar is more fortified due to its rougher terrain and many mountains,
rivers and trees, and it can accommodate hundreds of the brothers without
being spotted by the enemy. This will defend the brothers from the
aircraft,” he wrote.

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