KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (BNO NEWS) — Two militants were killed on Sunday when coalition forces carried out an airstrike in eastern Afghanistan, including a Saudi national believed to have been al-Qaeda’s second-highest leader in the country, officials said on Tuesday.
A statement from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said Sakhr al-Taifi, also known as Musthaq and Nasim, was al-Qaeda’s second-highest leader in Afghanistan and was responsible for commanding foreign insurgents and directing attacks against coalition and Afghan forces.
ISAF said al-Taifi was killed on Sunday when coalition forces carried out a precision airstrike in the Watahpur district of Kunar province. “After positively identifying Sakhr al-Taifi and one additional al-Qaeda terrorist, and ensuring no civilians were in the area, the security force engaged the targets with a precision airstrike,” the statement said. It did not identify the second al-Qaeda militant.
But it was not possible to verify ISAF’s claims as there were no known previous references to al-Taifi or the two pseudonyms given by the military. A United Nations (UN) sanctions list which contains the names of hundreds of known al-Qaeda members also made no mention of al-Taifi, who ISAF said was a Saudi citizen.
“The ranking of Sakhr al-Taifi as al-Qaeda’s second highest leader in Afghanistan is the result of extensive investigative services, intelligence gathering, and cooperation between coalition and Afghan forces,” ISAF spokesman Captain Justin Brockhoff said when asked about the lack of information. “However specific details regarding the acquisition of intelligence and sources cannot be released due to operational security considerations.”
Brockhoff said al-Taifi exercised influence over insurgents throughout Afghanistan’s east and was recently involved in an attempted suicide attack against coalition and Afghan forces. “I can say that he led multiple al-Qaeda terrorists and, through his connections with Taliban leaders in the area, exercised influence over insurgents throughout eastern Afghanistan, specifically in Kunar and Nuristan provinces,” the spokesman said.
ISAF said al-Taifi frequently traveled between Afghanistan and Pakistan, carrying out commands from senior al-Qaeda leadership. “He also supplied weapons and equipment to eastern insurgents and managed the illegal transport of insurgent fighters into Afghanistan,” the alliance said in its statement.