Kabul, Oct 8: The leader of al-Qaeda’s South Asian branch was killed in a U.S.-Afghan joint raid in southern Afghanistan in September, Afghan officials confirmed on October 8.
Asim Umar, who led al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) from its inception in 2014, was killed during a raid September 23 on a Taliban compound in the Musa Qala district of Helmand Province.
Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security said Umar was a Pakistani citizen, though some reports claim he was born in India.
He “was #killed along with six other AQIS members, most of them Pakistani”, the NDS tweeted, adding that Umar had been “embedded” with the Taliban.
1/2: BREAKING: #NDS can now confirm the death of Asim Omar, leader of #Al_Qaeda in the #Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), in a joint US-Afghan raid on a Taliban compound in Musa Qala district of Helmand province on Sep. 23. pic.twitter.com/sFKi38M6MC
— NDS Afghanistan (@NDSAfghanistan) October 8, 2019
The raid was part of a lengthy and confusing overnight operation between September 22 and 23 for which the U.S. provided air support.
Authorities said they would investigate reports that 40 civilians, including children, were killed in an air strike during the operation.
The NDS said that among the six other AQIS members killed in the raid was a man identified as “Raihan”, a courier for al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The middle-aged Umar was relatively unknown when he was picked to lead the newly created AQIS in 2014. The jihadist branch was established to try to rouse fighters in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
An Afghan Taliban source said in 2014 that Umar had worked with the Punjabi Taliban, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chapter in Pakistan's most populous Province, for some years before linking up with al-Qaeda.
Umar — an alias — was named by al-Zawahiri in a video message. A Pakistani intelligence official said Umar had travelled to Syria, though it was not possible to confirm this.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan declined to comment.
Under a stalled withdrawal plan negotiated between the U.S. and the Taliban, Washington agreed to pull troops from Afghanistan if the insurgents abide by security guarantees and cut all ties with al-Qaeda.