18 Daesh fighters killed in joint operation with US in Niger

Nigerien soldiers in Diffa city. Niger is one of a number of poor, fragile countries in the Sahel region that have been hit by an extremist revolt. (Reuters)
Updated 20 June 2019

18 Daesh fighters killed in joint operation with US in Niger

  • The June 8-18 operation took place in the northern border region of Tongo Tongo targeting a gang of Daesh terrorists implicated in an ambush on May 14, in which 28 Nigerien soldiers were killed
  • In October 2017, Daesh claimed responsibility for a raid which killed four US soldiers and five Nigerien troops in the same region

NIAMEY: Eighteen members of Daesh in the Greater Sahara were killed in a joint operation by US, French and Niger troops near Niger’s border with Mali, the defense ministry said Tuesday.
The June 8-18 operation took place in the northern border region of Tongo Tongo “targeting a gang of Daesh terrorists implicated in an ambush on May 14,” in which 28 Nigerien soldiers were killed, it said.
“The toll on the enemy side is: 18 terrorists neutralized, five terrorists, of whom three are Nigerien, taken prisoner.”
There were “no human or material losses” during the operation, which was codenamed ACONIT, it said.
“Important materiel was recovered including equipment belonging to the Niger armed forces which were taken by the attackers after the ambush,” the statement said.
In October 2017, Daesh claimed responsibility for a raid which killed four US soldiers and five Nigerien troops in the same region, a mere 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Malian border.
That ambush claimed the largest number of American lives in combat anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa since the “Black Hawk Down” incident in Somalia in 1993
On June 8, a US army vehicle hit a land mine near the town of Ouallam, about 100 kilometers north of the capital Niamey, but there were no casualties.
The area is near a major training camp where Nigerien soldiers are trained to serve in a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.
Late Tuesday, gunmen attacked a police station on the northern edge of the Niger capital Niamey, killing two policemen.
Niger is one of a number of poor, fragile countries in the Sahel region that have been hit by an extremist revolt.
The United States has a big base for drones in the northern city of Agadez and Niger recently gave the Americans permission to arm their drones.
The French also have a military base near Niamey airport and another at Madama in the north.
Various insurgent groups operate in the country’s west and north, and Nigeria’s Boko Haram is present in its southeast.
The country is part of the so-called G5 Sahel group set up to manage a coordinated response to the extremist insurgency.


Afghanistan claims killing an Al-Qaeda leader wanted by FBI

Updated 25 October 2020

Afghanistan claims killing an Al-Qaeda leader wanted by FBI

  • Reported death of Husam Abd Al-Rauf, also known by the nom de guerre Abu Muhsin Al-Masri, follows weeks of violence

KABUL: Afghanistan claimed Sunday it killed a top Al-Qaeda propagandist on an FBI most-wanted list during an operation in the country’s east, showing the militant group’s continued presence there as US forces work to withdraw from America’s longest-running war amid continued bloodshed.
The reported death of Husam Abd Al-Rauf, also known by the nom de guerre Abu Muhsin Al-Masri, follows weeks of violence including a Daesh-claimed suicide bombing Saturday at an education center near Kabul that killed 24 people. Meanwhile, the Afghan government continues to fight Taliban militants even as peace talks in Qatar between the two sides take place for the first time.
The violence and Al-Rauf’s reported killing threatens the face-to-face peace talks and risks plunging this nation beset by decades of war into further instability. It also complicates America’s efforts to withdraw, 19 years after it led an invasion targeting the Taliban for hosting Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Details over the raid that led to Al-Rauf’s alleged death remained murky, hours after Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security intelligence service claimed on Twitter to have killed him in Ghazni province. Al-Qaeda did not immediately acknowledge Al-Rauf’s reported death. The FBI, the US military and NATO did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Afghan raid happened last week in Kunsaf, a village in Ghazni province’s Andar district some 150 kilometers southwest of Kabul, two government officials said.
Amanullah Kamrani, the deputy head of Ghazni’s provincial council, told The Associated Press 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 Al-Rauf, Kamrani said.
Neither Kamrani nor the intelligence agency offered details on how authorities identified Al-Rauf, nor how they came to suspect he was in the village.
Wahidullah Jumazada, a spokesman for the provincial governor in Ghazni, said Afghan forces killed six suspected militants in the raid, without acknowledging Al-Rauf had been killed.
Kamrani alleged, without providing evidence, that the Taliban had been offering shelter and protection to Al-Rauf. The Taliban said on Sunday they are investigating the incident, without elaborating.
If the Taliban had provided protection for Al-Rauf, that would violate the terms of its Feb. 29 deal with the US that jump-started the Afghan peace talks. That deal saw the Taliban agree “not to cooperate with groups or individuals threatening the security of the United States and its allies,” which includes Al-Qaeda.
Federal prosecutors in the southern district of New York filed a warrant for Al-Rauf’s arrest in December 2018, accusing him of providing support to a foreign terrorist organization and being part of a conspiracy to kill US citizens. The FBI put him on the bureau’s “Most Wanted Terrorists” list, which now includes 27 others.
The red-headed Al-Rauf, believed to be born in 1958, is an Egyptian national. An Al-Qaeda-issued biography said he joined the mujahedeen fighters who battled the Soviet Union in 1986.
He has served for years as Al-Qaeda’s media chief, offering audio statements and written articles backing the militant group. After years of remaining silent following the acknowledgement of Taliban founder Mullah Omar’s death, Al-Rauf re-emerged in 2018 in an audio statement in which he mocked President Donald Trump and those who preceded him the White House.
“I name him ‘Donald T-Rambo’ who tries to copy the famous American fictional character ‘Rambo,’ who, with only a Kalashnikov, was able to liberate the entire Afghanistan from the Soviet Union,” Al-Rauf said, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
Meanwhile Sunday, authorities raised the death toll in Saturday’s suicide attack on an education center near Kabul. The suicide bomber, who was stopped by guards from entering the center, killed 24 and wounded 57 – many of them young students.
The Daesh group’s local affiliate claimed credit for the attack in a heavily Shiite neighborhood of western Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, saying one of its fighters used a suicide bomb vest in the assault.