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Key Al-Qaeda leader wanted by US killed in Afghanistan


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KABUL • Afghan forces have killed a top Al-Qaeda militant wanted by the United States, as the government yesterday accused the Taleban of still keeping close ties with the Islamist militant group.

Abu Muhsin Al-Masri, an Egyptian national believed to be the group’s No. 2 on the Indian sub-continent, was targeted in eastern Ghazni province, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said in a statement.

The National Directorate of Security did not provide further details about the operation or when it was carried out.

“The killing of one of the key al-Qaeda members, Al-Masri, by the National Directorate of Security demonstrates close ties of the Taleban with the terrorist groups that are operating against the Afghan government and its people,” Afghanistan’s Interior Minister Masoud Andarabi tweeted, without providing details. “They still keep close relations with the terrorist groups and they are lying to different sides.”

The head of the US National Counter-Terrorism Centre, Mr Chris Miller, confirmed Masri’s death in a statement, saying his “removal… from the battlefield is a major setback to a terrorist organisation that is consistently experiencing strategic losses facilitated by the United States and its partners”.

The Taleban’s sheltering of Al-Qaeda was the original reason for the US invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.

In a landmark deal with the US in February, the Taleban agreed to not allow Afghan soil to be used by foreign extremists, including Al-Qaeda, in return for Washington withdrawing its troops from the country.

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 organisation and plotting to kill US nationals, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Separately, the death toll from a bomb blast claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group at a higher education centre in Kabul rose to 24 yesterday – most of them students.

Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said another 57 people had been wounded in Saturday’s attack in a western district of the capital.

The explosion happened when about 800 students were studying at the centre, said Baqir Rahimi, who survived the incident.