Pakistan Reopens Torkham Border Crossing to NATO Supplies

Pakistan shut down the border crossing at Torkham to NATO fuel supplies after a series of raids by the US in Pakistan aimed at taking out the leadership of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. They reoppened the crossing today, and it demonstrates the power Pakistan has over Nato supply lines at the moment. The only other options to supply are by air, or overland and sea via Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, or through Russia. Either presents problems at the moment, as does negotiatng new supply routes from China via the silk road.

These raids have increased in tempo since the beginning of the year, but have not to our knowledge taken out anyone higher than mid level in either organization. Osama Bin Laden, Mullah Omar, Ayman Al Zawahiri, Baitullah Mehsud, Haqqani, and Abu Yazid Al Masri are still all out there to the best of my knowledge.

While many Taliban and AQ were killed, the identities are largely unknown until we get confirmations from other sources.

More on the interdiction of supplies from Bill Roggio:

The US has recently stepped up attacks against Taliban and al Qaeda safe houses and training camps inside Pakistan’s tribal areas of North and South Waziristan over the last week. The US has conducts five strikes in the Waziristans in the past week, including a controversial helicopter assault in a village along the border.

But other Pakistani officials are maintaining that the border crossing was closed due to a deteriorating security situation. Rahmin Malik, the advisor to Prime Minister Gilani on internal security, said the road was closed after members of the security forces protecting the road to Afghanistan were kidnapped.

This is a political move, demonstrating the new President’s independence from US control, but ultimately the Pakistan economy could not withstand the shock of stopping the supplies permanently, as well as the other likely reprecussions. It is significant that Pakistan also made this move as the India nuclear deal took place, allowing open trade with India and bringing them back into the nuclear arms treaties. Similar deals were in the works with Pakistan, but those fell through, more from the chaos of the elections and the aftermath of forming a new coalition after the initial one collapsed.

Pakistan’s future could be bright: They sit on the best path for energy and food supplies to most of the subcontinent, but as long as their frontiers remain out of control they will never be able to leverage that geopolitial advantage very well.

Abu Yazid Appears in New AQ Video of Preparations for Danish Embassey Bombing

New Al Qaeda video is out showing the preparation for bombing the Danish Embassey in Pakistan, and it has footage of Abu Yazid “Saeed” Al Masri. The video is undated, but seems to purport that he is alive. Story here.

There’s also been another missile strike, and unconfirmed reports of a US helicopter raid into Pakistan. Bill Roggio has the details here, and here.

Confirmed by AQ: Abu Yazid “Saeed” Al Masri Still on the HVT List

As Sahab, Al Qaeda’s media outlet, has released eulogies for two recently killed commanders, but Abu Yazid was not among them and he signed the message. This confirms that the August 12th reports of his demise from unamed Pakistani officials were false reports and leaves Saeed Al Masri on the high value target list.

My previous reports on him here. More at Jawa, and at CT Blog.

In other news another missile strike in Bajaur has taken out at least 8 Al Qaeda or Taliban militants.

Yazid Al Masri Update: Army Spokesman Partially Confirms Death of AQ #3

From the Pakistan Daily Times we have a named source saying that they think Abu Yazid “Saeed” Al Masri is dead. He refuses to confirm until secondary verification from ground sources however.

From the Daily Times:

Strikes by Pakistani fighter jets have killed a senior Al Qaeda commander in the Bajaur Agency, according to unofficial reports on Tuesday. Military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said the security agencies had intelligence on presence of top Al Qaeda operative Abu Mustafa Al Yazid but his death could not be confirmed as yet by “contacts on the ground”. “I can only speak when we have 100 percent confirmation that he was killed,” Abbas told Daily Times. However, he confirmed air raids in the area by security forces.

UPDATE II: In the International Times they have both Taliban and “Arab” sources denying the death of Abu Yazid “Saeed” Al Masri. This looks like another false report from Pakistan’s Military at the moment, but note that the military also states that intercepted insurgent radio chatter is where they first heard of the death, we’ll give this another 48 hours since Al Qaeda ususally does confirm when we kill a leader.

Update: Apparently after the strike the bodies where taken away, and then sent to separate villages, see this article.

Militants’ positions were also targeted by artillery and mortars from the paramilitary Bajaur Scouts headquarters in Khar, they added. The officials said 21 militants were killed and several were injured in the daylong bombing and artillery shelling on their hideouts.

Officials said the militants later took bodies of the slain and injured colleagues to their headquarters in Seway village of Mamond subdivision. “After their funeral prayers offered in Seway, the bodies of the militants were dispatched to their respective villages for burial,” sources close to militants told The News from Seway.

Sources said the militants from other tribal regions, including South Waziristan, Khyber, Mohmand and settled districts of Mardan, Peshawar, Nowshera, Dir and Swabi also reached the area to fight alongside their fellow fighters in the Bajaur Agency against the security forces.

[also note that the village mentioned has a history. You also see that the Mullah Faqir mentioned in the article and released in 2006 is leading the Taliban here.]

Today’s Earlier Post:
Pakistan has announced the death of Abu Yazid “Saeed” al-Masri in the Bajaur region as a result of their ongoing offensive there. (The Reuters story specifies an “Unamed Official, but that’s normally how these reports come from Pakistan.) Originally billed as Al Qaida’s leader in Afghanistan way back in May 2007 in an As Sahab video, he later seemed to have been replaced in subseqent announcements by other AQ leaders in Afghanistan as they tried Emir after Emir. I think this was by design after Dadullah’s death, their second tier now leads from the rear. He was the replacement after we killed Mullah Dadullah, and from what I can see he was in the second tier of leadership of Al Qaeda, managing both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Here is the video announcing him as leader in Afghanistan from Memri.

While I’m calling Abu Yazid as a “tier II” leader, some refer to him as Al Qaeda’s number three, he also served time in the same cell alongside Ayman Al Zawahiri in Egypt. Regardless of where you place his position, he is part of the critical strategic leadership for AQ, and this is a tremendous blow to them if the initial reports pan out.

He was the one who declared Jihad against Turkey, and later he pops up in the news claiming credit for the Benazir Bhutto assassination for Al Qaeda. ( Rememeber that many think Baitullah Mehsud did it as well, I would still wager that AQ ordered the killing and that Baitullah managed the logistics.)
You can also see in this dispatch at Memri that he doesn’t distinguish between civilians and government for purposes of Jihad.

Here’s the story from Fox News:

Senior Al Qaeda commander Abu Saeed al-Masri has been killed in recent clashes with Pakistani forces in a Pakistani region near the Afghan border, a security official told Reuters on Tuesday.

“He was believed to be among the top leadership of Al Qaeda,” the senior security official told the news agency on condition of anonymity.

Al-Masri, which means Egyptian, was the senior most Al Qaeda operative to have been killed in Pakistan’s tribal belt since the death of his compatriot, Abu Khabab al-Masri, an Al Qaeda chemical and biological weapons expert, last month

You can also see that Abu Yazid Al Masri, like all Al Qaeda leadership, interprets Jihad the way he wants to at the moment. Here he specifically states that blowing up mosques is forbidden, but later you saw Al Qaeda suicide bomb the mosque at Charsadda in an attempt to get Aftab Ahmed Sherpao:

In the interview, Abu Al-Yazid stated that Al-Qaeda was responsible for the attack on the Danish Embassy in Islamabad last June. He said that the bomber was a Saudi, and added: “We are proud to have carried out [this operation], and we congratulated our brothers for completing this task. We timed the attack in such a way that no Muslims were in the vicinity.” Abu Al-Yazid also stated that Al-Qaeda had been responsible for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. On a previous occasion, he claimed that the organization had carried out the December 27, 2007 assassination of former Pakistani prime-minister Benazir Bhutto.

Referring to the permissibility of suicide bombings, Abu Al-Yazid said that eminent Islamic scholars around the world had issued fatwas sanctioning them. He added: “Suicide attacks are justified by Islamic shari’a. [However, Islamic] scholars [who are affiliated with] governments issue whatever fatwas they are told to issue… However, suicide attacks inside mosques are forbidden.”

Meanwhile the offensive in Bajaur is continuing, I think the ruling coalition in Pakistan has realized that they must get AQ and Baitullah before the terrorists get them. ( Baitullah circulated a list of 300 PPP and PML-N stalwarts up for assassination last month.)

More at Jawa Report

More at The Long War Journal

Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid aka “Sa’id” Al Qaeda Leader Dead

Pakistan has announced the death of Abu Yazid “Saeed” al-Masri in the Bajaur region as a result of their ongoing offensive there. (The Reuters story specifies an “Unamed Official, but that’s normally how these reports come from Pakistan.) 
UPDATE: In the International Times they have both Taliban and “Arab” sources denying the death of Abu Yazid “Saeed” Al Masri. This looks like another false report from Pakistan’s Military at the moment, but note that the military also states that intercepted insurgent radio chatter is where they first heard of the death, we’ll give this another 48 hours since Al Qaeda ususally does confirm when we kill a leader.

Originally billed as Al Qaida’s leader in Afghanistan way back in May 2007 in an As Sahab video, he later seemed to have been replaced in subseqent announcements by other AQ leaders in Afghanistan as they tried Emir after Emir. I think this was by design after Dadullah’s death, their second tier now leads from the rear. He was the replacement after we killed Mullah Dadullah, and from what I can see he was in the second tier of leadership of Al Qaeda, managing both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Here is the video announcing him as leader in Afghanistan from Memri.

While I’m calling Abu Yazid as a “tier II” leader, some refer to him as Al Qaeda’s number three, he also served time in the same cell alongside Ayman Al Zawahiri in Egypt. Regardless of where you place his position, he is part of the critical strategic leadership for AQ, and this is a tremendous blow to them if the initial reports pan out.

He was the one who declared Jihad against Turkey, and later he pops up in the news claiming credit for the Benazir Bhutto assassination for Al Qaeda. ( Rememeber that many think Baitullah Mehsud did it as well, I would still wager that AQ ordered the killing and that Baitullah managed the logistics.)
You can also see in this dispatch at Memri that he doesn’t distinguish between civilians and government for purposes of Jihad.

Here’s the story from Fox News:

Senior Al Qaeda commander Abu Saeed al-Masri has been killed in recent clashes with Pakistani forces in a Pakistani region near the Afghan border, a security official told Reuters on Tuesday.

“He was believed to be among the top leadership of Al Qaeda,” the senior security official told the news agency on condition of anonymity.

Al-Masri, which means Egyptian, was the senior most Al Qaeda operative to have been killed in Pakistan’s tribal belt since the death of his compatriot, Abu Khabab al-Masri, an Al Qaeda chemical and biological weapons expert, last month

You can also see that Abu Yazid Al Masri, like all Al Qaeda leadership, interprets Jihad the way he wants to at the moment. Here he specifically states that blowing up mosques is forbidden, but later you saw Al Qaeda suicide bomb the mosque at Charsadda in an attempt to get Aftab Ahmed Sherpao:

In the interview, Abu Al-Yazid stated that Al-Qaeda was responsible for the attack on the Danish Embassy in Islamabad last June. He said that the bomber was a Saudi, and added: “We are proud to have carried out [this operation], and we congratulated our brothers for completing this task. We timed the attack in such a way that no Muslims were in the vicinity.” Abu Al-Yazid also stated that Al-Qaeda had been responsible for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. On a previous occasion, he claimed that the organization had carried out the December 27, 2007 assassination of former Pakistani prime-minister Benazir Bhutto.

Referring to the permissibility of suicide bombings, Abu Al-Yazid said that eminent Islamic scholars around the world had issued fatwas sanctioning them. He added: “Suicide attacks are justified by Islamic shari’a. [However, Islamic] scholars [who are affiliated with] governments issue whatever fatwas they are told to issue… However, suicide attacks inside mosques are forbidden.”

Meanwhile the offensive in Bajaur is continuing, I think the ruling coalition in Pakistan has realized that they must get AQ and Baitullah before the terrorists get them. ( Baitullah circulated a list of 300 PPP and PML-N stalwarts up for assassination last month.)

More at Jawa Report

More at The Long War Journal