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Afghan Security Forces Kill Top Al-Qaeda Leader


Afghan special forces attend a graduation ceremony in Kabul in June.

Afghan security forces have killed Abu Muhsin al-Masri, a senior Al-Qaeda leader who was also wanted by the United States.

Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security said in a tweet on October 24 that Masri, believed to be the No. 2 figure in Al-Qaeda, was killed by special forces in central Ghazni Province.

It did not provide more details or say when he was killed.

Masri, an Egyptian national who also went by the name Husam Abd al-Ra'uf, was the top Al-Qaeda leader on the Indian subcontinent and led the group's media operations.

He was on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list for providing support to a terrorist organization and conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens.

The Afghan raid happened last week in Kunsaf, a village in Ghazni Province's Andar district, some 150 kilometers southwest of Kabul, AP reported, citing two unnamed government officials.

Amanullah Kamrani, the deputy head of Ghazni's provincial council, told AP that Afghan special forces led by the intelligence agency raided Kunsaf, which he described as being under Taliban control. On the village's outskirts, they stormed an isolated home and killed seven suspected militants in a firefight, including Masri, Kamrani said.

Neither Kamrani nor the intelligence agency offered details on how authorities identified Masri, nor how they came to suspect he was in the village.

Masri's killing comes as the Taliban and Afghan government continue peace talks in Qatar aimed at ending nearly 19 years of war.

Masri's killing was an indication of the relationship between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, Afghanistan's Interior Minister Masoud Andarabi claimed on October 25 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."

Despite the peace talks, the militants and Kabul engage in nearly daily combat.

The negotiations follow a deal between the United States and the Taliban signed in February, which envisages U.S. forces leaving Afghanistan and the Taliban committing to not allow Afghan soil to be used by terrorist groups to launch attacks abroad.

There remain questions about whether the Taliban can or will severe ties with Al-Qaeda.

Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said less than 200 Al-Qaeda operatives remained in Afghanistan.

The United States invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban because they harbored Al-Qaeda militants responsible for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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