Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – NATO’s International Security Assistance Force [ISAF] has announced that a high-ranking member of Al Qaeda, Saudi citizen Saleh Naif Eid Al-Makhlafi, has been killed in Afghanistan. Al-Makhlafi, who went by several aliases including Abu Hafs al-Najdi and Abdul Ghani, was number 35 on the list of 85 most-wanted terrorists issued by the Saudi Ministry of Interior in 2009. The Saudi Interior Ministry has said that it is seeking confirmation of his death.
Saudi Interior Ministry security spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki informed Asharq Al-Awsat that they are working to obtain confirmation on the identity of the killed Al Qaeda member. He said “we are seeking to obtain evidence confirming his identity.”
Information about Al-Makhlafi is scarce, although he is thought to have been 29 years old, and to have left Saudi Arabia 7 years ago via the United Arab Emirates. ISAF described Al-Makhlafi as being a “senior leader” in Al Qaeda who “operated primarily from Kunar [in Afghanistan] and traveled frequently between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He directed Al Qaeda operations in the province, including recruiting; training and employing fighters; obtaining weapons and equipment; organizing Al Qaeda finances; and planning attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.”
According to the ISAF statement, Al-Makhlafi was killed, along with a number of other insurgents including another Al Qaeda leader from Pakistan known as Waqas, in a 13 April 2011 airstrike carried out by ISAF forces in the Dangam district of the Kunar province.
The ISAF statement said that Al-Makhlafi was responsible for coordinating a number of high-profile attacks in the region, including suicide bomb attacks targeting US government officials, insurgent attacks against security force outposts throughout the province, as well as reportedly directing the suicide attack that killed tribal elder Malik Zarin and nine other Afghan civilians, which he coordinated on the morning of his death.
ISAF also claimed that Al-Makhlafi AKA Abdul Ghani “was also a key financial conduit between Pakistan-based leaders and insurgent operatives in Afghanistan. Abdul Ghani was able to streamline control of assets and provide considerably more funding to insurgent fighters. This led to increased funds to provide weapons, [and] explosives and equipment.”
ISAF also revealed that Al-Makhlafi had been “the focus of coalition force efforts since at least 2007” and that the “Al Qaeda network and its safe havens remain a top priority for Afghan and coalition forces.”
The ISAF statement also revealed that coalition forces had killed more than 25 Al Qaeda leaders and fighters in the last month, and claimed that “the death of Abdul Ghani [AKA Al-Makhlafi] marks a significant milestone in the disruption of the Al Qaeda network.”
If the news of the death of Al-Makhlafi is confirmed, then this would mean that the 85 most wanted terrorists being pursued by Riyadh since 2009 has been reduced to less than 70, with the deaths of a number of those included on this list, as well as the surrender of a number of others including number 16 on the list Bard Mohammed Nasser Al-Shahri, and number 20 Jaber Jabran Ali al-Fifi.
Number 10 on the list of 85, Ahmad Kuteim Mohammed Al-Huzali, who some reports claim was involved in the failed assassination attempt against Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Naif, was arrested in Yanbu. Whilst number 32 on the list of 85 most wanted terrorists Sultan Radi Sumeilil al-Otaibi was reportedly killed in Iraq, and number 40 Abdullah Hassan Tali Assiri died in the failed assassination attempt on Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Naif.
According to some reports, a number of others on the list of 95 also surrendered themselves to the Saudi authorities including; number 43 on the list Abdullah Abdul Rahman Mohammed al-Harbi, number 73 Mohamed Otaik Owaid al-Aufi, number 61 Fahd Rikad Sameer al-Ruwaili, and number 65 Fawaz al-Humaidi Hajid Al-Habradi al-Otaibi.
The Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry most recently issued a list of 47 most-wanted Saudi terrorists linked to Al Qaeda, on 9 January 2011. This list was also sent to Interpol. According to the Saudi Interior Ministry, none of the 47 are thought to be operating within Saudi Arabia, with the majority of them are thought to be either in Pakistani or Afghanistan, or Yemen.